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Published on Nov 30, 2015
A fleet of autonomous “SmartCarts” – high-tech, 3D printed, low-speed electric vehicles – could one day zip around the University of Michigan’s North Campus, taking students, professors and staff to class, labs and offices while also serving as one of the first test beds for on-demand autonomous transit. In an early step toward that goal, U-M researchers received a custom, 3D-printed vehicle from technology company Local Motors. Over the next year, Edwin Olson, an associate professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science who leads the project and his team of U-M researchers will develop autonomy capabilities and build a mobile phone interface users can use to request a ride. They’ll test the vehicle at Mcity, the autonomous and connected vehicle test site that’s operated by the Mobility Transformation Center, a public/private partnership headquartered at U-M. “Our focus is on transportation as a system,” said David Munson, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering. “Lots of people are talking about this as the way of the future, but we're aiming to build a test bed that will allow us to stop talking and start doing. If we can put such a system into service, it would be a huge research enabler on campus, and it would be one of only a few like it in the world.”
ABOUT THE PROFESSOR: Edwin Olson is an Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan. He is the director of the APRIL robotics lab (https://april.eecs.umich.edu/) which studies Autonomy, Perception, Robotics, Interfaces, and Learning. His active research projects include applications to explosive ordinance disposal, search and rescue, multi-robot communication, railway safety, and automobile autonomy and safety. In 2010, he led the winning team in the MAGIC 2010 competition by developing a team of 14 robots that semi-autonomously explored and mapped a large-scale urban environment. For winning, the U.S. Department of Defense awarded him $750,000. He was named one of Popular Science's "Brilliant Ten" in September, 2012. In 2013, he was awarded a DARPA Young Faculty Award. His work on autonomous cars continues in cooperation with Ford Motor Company on the Next Generation Vehicle project.