At this high-tech proving ground, the roads are packed, and there’s no tall fence to keep everything hidden from view. 

The vehicles being tested look no different than what you find anywhere in the country on a typical day. Here, researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute are studying how those vehicles can communicate with the world around them — technology they say is closer to widespread deployment than autonomous vehicles are. 

To demonstrate the potential of connected vehicles, more than just a few loops of empty pavement are needed. So all 27 square miles of Ann Arbor, Mich., will become an inconspicuous, real-world test bed.