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Driverless cars show off with an international road trip

Jul 31, 2017

Two driverless cars traveled some 300 miles today, crossing from Detroit over to Windsor, before making their way back into Michigan and up to Traverse City.

The road trip was part experiment, part advertisement: there's a big auto industry shindig happening in Traverse City right now and Michigan is really trying to cement itself as "the place" to build driverless cars.

So to show off, state and Canadian officials got two auto supply companies to do this test drive.

Both cars were in driverless mode on all the highways, and even underwater in the Detroit Windsor tunnel, says Kirk Steudle, Director of Michigan’s Department of Transportation. Although he says the cars got tripped up a couple of times, like right after the toll booths.

"They did learn some things. They learned a lot on the bridge and in the tunnel, particularly where the pavement markings maybe are worn off a bit,” he says,  “or after the toll booths, where there aren’t any. Think about when you pay a toll and then you leave and there's sort of that mass confusion, trying to get back into one lane or two lanes? They said the car had a little trouble there, because it didn't exactly know where to go."

The cars lost their GPS in the underwater concrete tunnel, Steudle says, so it had to rely heavily on its sensors to pick up pavement markings. “What the driver told me was, they tested it earlier, the pavement markings really were not very good. So before today’s event, the markings were re-striped, and it worked perfectly. The car could really see where it was going.”

The ride ended with a victory lap into the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminar in Traverse City.