LTU Researching Autonomous Taxi With Donations From Corporate Partners

SOUTHFIELD — Lawrence Technological University has begun the research and development of an autonomous campus taxi thanks to donations from several corporate partners.

Hyundai MOBIS, the parts and service division of the Korean automaker, donated $15,000 for the purchase of a Polaris GEM e2 two-seat electric vehicle. Dataspeed Inc., a Rochester Hills engineering firm specializing in mobile robotics and autonomous vehicle technology, converted the vehicle to an autonomous 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, provided a cash donation.

Hyundai MOBIS formally turned the keys of the vehicle over to LTU Provost Maria Vaz and C.J. Chung, professor of computer science, in a ceremony on the LTU campus last week. Vaz thanked the sponsors for providing a great learning and research opportunity. David Agnew, director of advanced engineering at MOBIS, made the presentation.

David Agnew of MOBIS hands over the keys of a Polaris GEM e2 converted to a drive-by-wire EV by Dataspeed Inc. to Maria Vaz, LTU Vice President and Provost. (Photo by Matt Roush)

LTU computer science students have already won an international award with the vehicle. They developed software to make the car operate autonomously – well enough that it took first place in the new Spec 2 division of the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition, held at Oakland University in June. The Spec 2 competition required multiple self-driving vehicle functions such as lane following, lane change, traffic sign detection, obstacle avoidance, and left turns.

After winning at IGVC, team members began reprogramming the vehicle to serve as an autonomous taxi on the LTU campus. It’s been rechristened ACT, an acronym for Autonomous Campus Transport/Taxi, in a naming contest won by Nick Paul, one of the team members. Chung said the university is planning to introduce Level 3 autonomy with the vehicle – allowing both hands and eyes off the road – by August 2018.

A video of the car in competition at the IGVC is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSzxPp66vxk&feature=youtu.be.

From left to right are C.J. Chung (LTU faculty); Serge Danielson-Francois (LTU faculty); Gordon Stein (LTU faculty); Devson Butani (LTU mechanical engineering student); Chris Kawatsu (SoarTech); Avram Kluger (LTU advancement staff); David Agnew (MOBIS); Mitchell Pleune (LTU computer science student); Jane Tarakhovsky (MOBIS), Nick Paul (LTU computer science student), Patrick Nelson (LTU faculty), Maria Vaz (LTU Provost), Brian Neumeyer (Dataspeed), Alex Sebastian (Dataspeed), and Howard Davis (LTU advancement staff). (Photo by Matt Roush)

Lawrence Technological University, http://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.