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Michigan Tech to Test Autonomous Cars at Road America

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【Summary】The AutoDrive collegiate design competition is sponsored by SAE International and General Motors and will see Michigan Tech convert a Chevrolet Bolt EV into a Level 4 autonomous vehicle.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Mar 23, 2018 10:30 AM PT
Michigan Tech to Test Autonomous Cars at Road America

Autonomous vehicles are expected to drastically alter the lives of younger drivers. So it only makes sense that technologically-oriented universities and schools are looking to young students to help shape future cars. 

AutoDrive Will Push College Students 

According to Michigan Tech's website, the technological school, which is located just above Wisconsin, is planning to bring their autonomous vehicle to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. over spring break. The Michigan Technological University Robotics Systems Enterprise (RSE) AutoDrive Challenge Team will test their self-driving car on the road and track for the first time. 

As the university explains, the AutoDrive challenge is a collegiate design competition that's sponsored by SAE International and General Motors. The competition will see teams transform a Chevrolet Bolt EV into a semi-autonomous vehicle with Level 4 capability. The teams must make a vehicle that can complete three tasks: stop at course markings while remaining in a lane, follow a curved road while staying within a lane, and traversing a multi-lane road layout that has cones and other obstacles. 

Michigan Tech's team will compete in the competition with their autonomous vehicle, which is called Prometheus Borealis. During the college's spring break, the team will head to Road America to give the self-driving car a shakedown before heading down to Yuma, Ariz. to compete against seven other universities from around the country. 

While at Road America, which is one of 10 federally designated Automated Vehicle Proving Grounds, Michigan Tech will focus on five major things: ride quality, time, the vehicle's speed, vehicle operation, and effectiveness of the E-stop. 

What Teams Are Looking To Test

Ride quality pertains to how well the autonomous car accelerates and decelerates and if the machine meets "jerk limits." Time pertains to how long the car takes to complete challenges, while the vehicle's speed must go at least 25 mph. The university doesn't expand on what vehicle operation means, besides claiming that only trained safety drivers can perform the task. Lastly, effectiveness of the E-stop (emergency stop switch) will help researchers see how long the vehicle takes to come to a complete stop in an emergency situation. 

According to Fox 11 News, the 50-member team from Michigan Technological University entered Prometheus Borealis into the three-year contest and has its sights on making the best driverless car. 

"The safety driver is there to take over in the event of an emergency but for the most part, the vehicle is fully autonomous," said Jeremy Bos, assistant professor of electric and computer engineering. "It is a rolling computer. And that's actually most of the work goes, it's in the software side," he said.  

According to Bos, the vehicle has been fitted with a camera, GPS, electronic maps, and LiDAR in order to give it Level 4 semi-autonomous capability. And while it may seem odd to test self-driving cars on a race track, Road America has a lot to offer the university. 

We have a lot of access roads, we have a lot of paved, large paved space, where people can test," said John Ewert, communications director at Road America. "So people are able to get a lot of data and be able to use that data, towards developing software for autonomous vehicles." 

Testing at Road America will be a pivotal part of Michigan Tech's run to win the contest, as the university, and the other seven, only have one month before the official competition takes part. 

via: Fox 11 News, Michigan Tech / Photos By: WLUK/Eric Pterson

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