Highway driving, which is less complex than city driving, has proved easy enough for self-driving cars, but busy downtown streets—where cars and pedestrians jockey for space and behave in confusing and surprising ways—are more problematic. Now Will Knight reports that Michigan's Department of Transportation and 13 companies involved with developing automated driving technology are constructing a 30-acre, $6.5 million driverless town near Ann Arbor to test self-driving cars in an urban environment. Complex intersections, confusing lane markings, and busy construction crews will be used to gauge the aptitude of the latest automotive sensors and driving algorithms and mechanical pedestrians will even leap into the road from between parked cars so researchers can see if they trip up onboard safety systems. “I think it’s a great idea,” says John Leonard, a professor at MIT who led the development of a self-driving vehicle for a challenge run by DARPA in 2007. “It is important for us to try to collect statistically meaningful data about the performance of self-driving cars. Repeated operations—even in a small-scale environment—can yield valuable data sets for testing and evaluating new algorithms.” The testing facility is part of broader work by the University of Michigan's Mobility Transformation Facility that will include putting up to 20,000 vehicles on southeastern Michigan roads. By 2021, Ann Arbor could become the first American city with a shared fleet of networked, driverless vehicles. "Ann Arbor will be seen as the leader in 21st century mobility," says Peter Sweatman, director of the U-M Transportation Research Institute. "We want to demonstrate fully driverless vehicles operating within the whole infrastructure of the city within an eight-year timeline and to show that these can be safe, effective and commercially successful."