Mcity OS operating system. Photo courtesy of Mcity

January 25, 2021: Michigan News, University of Michigan

A unique new cloud-based operating system for testing connected or automated vehicles has for the first time been licensed for use beyond Mcity at the University of Michigan, where it was developed.

The Mcity OS software, which lets researchers create and execute complex, highly repeatable testing scenarios for vehicles that are connected, automated, or both connected and automated, has been licensed by the U-M Office of Technology Transfer to the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Mcity OS is especially useful in situations involving smart road infrastructure and intelligent transportation systems, as is the case at ACM. ACM collaborated with Mcity to integrate Mcity OS with simulated and physical test infrastructure at its 500-acre Smart Mobility Test Center about 15 miles east of Ann Arbor.

With Mcity OS, users can accelerate CV, AV or CAV testing, reduce testing costs and speed up overall product development. The software is controlled using a variety of internet-enabled devices, such as a smartphone, tablet/laptop or in-vehicle computer system, through an app developed by Mcity called Skyline. When Mcity OS is licensed for use at other testing sites, such as ACM, scenarios created at one location can be replicated at another, saving time and increasing the reliability of testing results.

“Vehicles of the future are magnitudes more capable and complex in their behaviors than vehicles today,” said Mcity Associate Director Greg McGuire. “Test facilities have to advance along with them in terms of their own capabilities.”

McGuire and Tyler Worman, engineering lead at Mcity, saw the need for something like Mcity OS when they realized many users of Mcity’s test facility were not taking advantage of the infrastructure, such as smart intersections, a working railroad crossing and pedestrian crosswalks. Those who did typically had a background in that specific piece of hardware or Mcity had trained them to use it.

“Testing engineers were controlling individual features at the test facility manually, perhaps by using a radio to instruct a colleague at a traffic signal to turn the light red,” Worman said. “With Mcity OS, you can orchestrate that.”

High-speed communication between users and the traffic infrastructure, robots and vehicles, as well as virtual infrastructure and vehicles, supports robust data collection to verify test results and readily compare results from live testing with results from simulated testing.

ACM CEO and President Reuben Sarkar sees Mcity OS as an instrumental addition to the ACM test track.

“ACM is an ecosystem where we constantly look to integrate the latest testing technologies like Mcity OS to support engineers as they prove out new use case scenarios,” Sarkar said. “Mcity OS is now a key part of our toolset, serving to improve our customers’ efficiency when using ACM’s comprehensive capabilities. The collaboration with Mcity has been an outstanding example of how we can complement each other to bring new value to the mobility ecosystem.”

Mcity OS is not limited to use at vehicle test facilities; it could be the basis for future smart mobility applications as well.

Initially, Mcity’s goal was to create a software system specifically for use at the Mcity Test Facility. Early in the development, however, it became clear that a framework for AV test scenario creation and execution would have tremendous value in supporting mobility research more broadly, beyond the Mcity Test Facility. Mcity OS has been deployed in the city of Ann Arbor to support joint U-M/city research initiatives. Making it possible to scale up from, for example, 10 intersections and two vehicles to a few hundred vehicles and 70 or 80 intersections of data came with its own set of challenges.

“We’ve changed technologies behind the scenes quite a bit but we’ve really tried to not change anything that users interact with,” Worman said. “If you wrote a testing or research data collection scenario two years ago during the early development phase of Mcity OS, it will still run today.”

To learn more, join a webinar with ACM and Mcity at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3, to discuss what Mcity OS is, how it works, and the value and efficiencies it brings to CAV test engineers as they work to validate new mobility technologies. Register for the webinar.

For inquiries about licensing Mcity OS, contact the U-M Office of Technology Transfer, 734-763-0614 or techtransfer@umich.edu. For more information about Mcity OS at ACM, contact Dawn Thompson, dawn.thompson@acmwillowrun.org.