The U.S. Army has extended its relationship with the University of Michigan’s Automotive Research Center (ARC) in Ann Arbor, with a five-year, agreement to provide funding of up to $100 million to boost work on autonomous vehicle technologies.
The extension could potentially double the federal government’s financial investment in ARC since the last agreement was reached in 2019. Following its 1994 launch, the ARC has served as a source of technology, modeling, and simulation for the Army’s fleet of vehicles — the largest such fleet in the world.
“We are driving the development of modern mobility systems with our advanced modeling and simulation methods, such as high-fidelity synthetic environments, virtual vehicle prototypes and virtual reality tools for human-autonomy teaming,” says Bogdan Epureanu, director of ARC.
The cost and time needed to collect data through physical experimentation is prohibitive, and the amount of data needed to enable autonomous operation in off-road, military, emergency, or disaster relief scenarios is thousands of times larger than that needed for operation in cities. Cutting-edge modeling and simulation approaches such as the ones developed in the ARC can provide a solution to this challenge.
The 14-member collection of universities and institutes, led by U-M, features a total of 84 faculty members, 34 industry partners, and four government agencies. It provides a system of research and innovation devoted to transforming ground system technologies.
In the earliest years of the ARC’s partnership, the bulk of its research focused on energy and powertrain issues. That work led to advances such as accurate modeling of combat personnel and their gear to assist with vehicle design, engine designs, performance simulations, blast modeling, and simulation techniques, as well as a better understanding of lithium-ion battery performance and design.
Some of the results cross over from military to civilian applications, such as digital engineering for reliability-based optimization of vehicle safety.
In recent years, ARC’s focus has shifted toward autonomous technologies that have become increasingly important to the military and beyond.
“The ARC is the Army’s Center of Excellence in Modeling and Simulation,” says David Gorsich, chief scientist for Army ground vehicles. “The research it conducts is crucial to developing the next generation of digital engineering tools to be used by government and industry.”
Using the latest digital engineering tools allows the Army to design and develop advanced vehicle systems quickly and efficiently, bringing modern capabilities to its soldiers.
The newest systems are fuel-efficient, survivable, reliable, semi-autonomous, and software-intensive systems. These characteristics reduce the Army’s logistical burden while increasing operational effectiveness.
ARC brings together researchers working in engineering, machine learning, human factors, and social behavior. And it fits within U-M’s broader mission of exploring the future of mobility — from autonomous and connected vehicle technology to battery research for electric vehicles.
Participating institutions include: the University of Iowa; Wayne State University in Detroit; Clemson University; Oakland University in Rochester; Virginia Tech; Michigan Technological University in Houghton; Mississippi State University; the University of Alabama at Birmingham; the University of California, Irvine; George Mason University; Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant; Michigan State University in East Lansing; and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.