U-M's Automotive Research Center shifting focus to autonomous technologies for military ground vehicles

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The University of Michigan has announced that its Automotive Research Center (ARC) has been awarded a $50 million contract from the U.S. Army, extending the ARC’s 25-year partnership with the Army through 2024.

​With the funding, the ARC will shift its focus to autonomous technologies for military ground vehicles.

Launched in 1994, the ARC has served as a source of technology, modeling and simulation for the Army’s fleet of vehicles, which is the largest in the world.

Over the years, the ARC has focused on vehicle energy and powertrain issues, which led to a number of advancements including accurate modeling of soldiers and their gear to assist with vehicle design, engine designs and performance simulations, and a better understanding of Lithium ion battery performance and design.

The focus of ARC’s work going forward will be on the possibilities and challenges that new, autonomous technologies pose for the military.

“Autonomy has the potential to make the most radical impact by significantly reducing the number of soldiers in harm’s way and changing the military paradigm,” explains ARC director Bogdan Epureanu, U-M professor of mechanical engineering.

“The next generation of autonomous vehicles will give our soldiers a position of advantage and safety—most dramatically in the last tactical mile.

The ARC’s autonomous ground vehicle systems are described as “adaptable, capable of operating in uncontrolled environments, highly maneuverable and safe in the face of adversarial threats and limited fuel supplies.”

The research areas that the ARC will focus on fall into five categories: vehicle dynamics, control and autonomous behavior; human-centered design and human-autonomy teaming; high-performance structures and materials for adaptability and enhanced mobility; intelligent power systems; and fleet operations and vehicle systems integration.

“We are excited to continue our long-standing relationship with the University of Michigan and the Automotive Research Center, and we are looking forward to working with ARC to help the Army move forward with its modernization strategy,” says David Gorisch, chief scientist for the U.S. Army.

Sponsored by the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command as part of its Ground Vehicle Systems Center, the ARC includes several partner institutions, including Clemson University, the University of Iowa, Michigan Tech, Oakland University, Wayne State University and Virginia Tech.