SOUTHFIELD – For the second consecutive year, Lawrence Technological University is the world champion of autonomous vehicles. LTU won the Self-Drive Challenge competition at the 26th Annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition, held last week at Oakland University in Rochester.
The winning vehicle is called ACTor, for Autonomous Campus Transport/Taxi. The two-seat Polaris Gem electric vehicle was donated to the university through a gift from Hyundai Mobis, the parts and service division of the Korean automaker.
In the IGVC, students compete to design, power and build an intelligent ground vehicle that can follow lanes, detect and avoid obstacles, and follow waypoint navigation. The competition teaches electrical, mechanical, and computer engineering, and includes cash prizes. The win included a $3,000 prize and plaque.
Dataspeed Inc., a Rochester Hills engineering firm specializing in mobile robotics, converted the vehicle to a drive-by-wire system.
Also donating to the effort were a pair of Ann Arbor high-tech firms. Soar Technology Inc. provided a LIDAR (laser-based radar) unit to help the vehicle find its way, while Realtime Technologies Inc., a simulation technology firm, and the auto supplier Denso provided cash donations. Veoneer, a spinoff of the Swedish auto supplier Autoliv, provided a 3D LIDAR as well as automotive radars.
Other competitors in the Self-Drive challenge included Oakland University, the University of Detroit Mercy, the Indian Institute of Technology – Madras, and New York University.
After winning at IGVC, team members are now reprogramming the vehicle to serve as an autonomous taxi on the LTU campus. Team coach C.J. Chung, professor of computer science at LTU, said the university is planning to introduce Level 3 autonomy with the vehicle – allowing both hands and eyes off the road – by August.
Team members were undergraduate computer science majors Sean Bleicher of Fenton, Charles Faulkner of Aurora, Ill., Mitchell Pleune of Rochester Hills, and graduate computer science students Nick Paul of Plymouth and Ben Warrick of Taylor. Mechanical engineering major Devson Butani, an international student from India, is also a member of the team.
Also competing in the original part of IGVC, the AutoNav Challenge for smaller autonomous robot vehicles, was an LTU team calling itself WASPP, for the first letter of the last names of the team members. The team won a third place award in the IGVC Design Challenge competition. WASPP was comprised of 2018 LTU graduates Syed Athar of Farmington Hills, Ryan Pizzirusso of York, Pa., and Chris Suchezky of Southfield, all robotics engineering majors, 2018 mechanical engineering graduate Lacy Pyrzynski of Northville, and robotics engineering student Thomas Weeks of Grand Rapids, who is scheduled to graduate in December. This team was coached by Giscard Kfoury, associate professor of mechanical engineering at LTU.
A total of 36 universities participated in the AutoNav Challenge.
Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Management. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 100 universities for the salaries of its graduates, and U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best Midwestern universities. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.
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Captions for photos also attached:
IGVC 1:From left to right are LTU professor C.J. Chung and LTU students Charles Faulkner, Mitchell Pleune, Nick Paul, Ben Warrick, and Sean Bleicher after winning the IGVC Self-Drive Challenge
IGVC 3: As an IVGC judge and LTU professor C.J. Chung shoot video, the Lawrence Tech autonomous car successfully stops automatically at a stop sign on the IGVC Self-Drive Challenge course, marked in white paint on a parking lot at Oakland University.
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Contact: Matt Roush, (248) 204-2210,
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