There are a few ways to teach autonomous cars to drive.
One is to have them drive in the real world and to test different autonomy features by enabling them in different contexts. This requires the presence of a human driver who can intervene whenever necessary.
Another is to have them drive in a simulated virtual world.
Finally, you can have them drive in a fake real world. This is a real world setting that’s built for the specific purpose of teaching autonomous cars to drive. So, for example, the roads, signs, and traffic lights reflect real world conditions but dummies are used rather than pedestrians. Here’s an example from the University of Michigan’s Mcity.
The second and third approaches are low risk ways to prepare for the first approach.
This fake town was apparently built to teach autonomous cars how to drive. pic.twitter.com/iLmurYfN3L
— Mashable (@mashable) October 8, 2017