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University of Michigan gets $50M Army contract for autonomous vehicle research

An unmanned Hippo amphibious vehicle is used to carry supplies, provide cover and support casualty evacuations during the monthlong Exercise Autonomous Warrior on the Salisbury Plain Training Area, England, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018.

WILLIAM HOWARD/STARS AND STRIPES

By DANA AFANA | The Ann Arbor News | Published: April 11, 2019

ANN ARBOR, MI (Tribune News Service) — The U.S. Army is giving the University of Michigan $50 million for autonomous vehicle technology research.

The contract will shift the focus of the Automotive Research Center (ARC) to autonomous technologies for military ground vehicles through 2024, according to a university news release. The research center has been partnered with the Army for 25 years.

“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,” said Bogdan Epureanu, director of the center, in the news release. “The next generation of autonomous vehicles will give our soldiers a position of advantage and safety—most dramatically in the last tactical mile.

“The potential benefits of these technologies—the systems and materials that can improve the Army’s mission capabilities—creates pressure for us to develop them quickly. And we are well-positioned to do that."

The research areas will focus on five categories:

Vehicle dynamics, control and autonomous behavior: navigation, sensors, controls, hardware and algorithms.

Human-centered design and human-autonomy teaming: developing technologies to establish trust between soldiers and autonomous systems and adapt to a human’s limits when handling large amounts of information.

High-performance structures and materials for adaptability and enhanced mobility: developing systems that operate without constraints of human passengers and adapting new technologies for passenger safety and comfort.

Intelligent power systems: developing advanced solutions for vehicles with omnivorous energy systems, as well as for meeting the power demands of new payloads and the high-level sensing and computation that autonomy requires.

Fleet operations and vehicle systems integration: modeling and simulating efforts to create a fleet of vehicles that can be optimally controlled and quickly adapted to new missions and terrains.

“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,” said David Gorisch, chief scientist for the U.S. Army, in the news release.

The center has served as a source of technology, modeling and simulation for the Army’s vehicles since 1994, according to the university. Its partners include Clemson University, the University of Iowa, Michigan Tech, Oakland University, Wayne State University and Virginia Tech.

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