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­-M Will Test 3D-Printed, Autonomous 'smartcarts'


A SmartCart, in front of a monitor displaying a laser scan of the room.

Researchers at the University of Michigan will develop autonomous capabilities for this 3-D printed low-speed electric vehicle, which is being manufactured by Arizona technology company Local Motors.

Credit: Local Motors

University of Michigan (U-M) researchers are working on the SmartCarts project, which aims to understand the challenges of a transportation-on-demand system built around autonomous cars.

Over the next year, U-M researchers will develop autonomy capabilities and build a three-dimensional printed mobile device interface that can be used to request a ride. The researchers will test the vehicle at Mcity, an autonomous and connected vehicle test site operated by the Mobility Transformation Center, a public-private partnership headquartered at U-M.

"On this project, we're deliberately 'cheating' on the autonomy as much as we can--not because we can't build autonomous cars, but because we need a working test bed now so that we can begin to look at all of the other challenges of an on-demand system," says U-M professor Edwin Olson.

The researchers will face challenges including understanding passengers' preferences and expectations, coordinating the routes of a fleet of vehicles, and determining how to balance supply and demand. "These factors--not just the self-driving technology--are critical to the economic viability and social acceptance of a full-scale transportation service," Olson says.

The researchers initially will focus on finding methods to simplify the autonomy challenges that take advantage of the smaller scale of a college campus.

From University of Michigan News Service
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