From Autonomous Car to Airframe Inspection, Discovery Channel Exclusive Video Features Leading U-M Faculty Research

January 15, 2016 – Think Uber, but with low-speed, driverless cars that can shuttle people quickly and safely around college campuses across the nation. Edwin Olson, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at the University of Michigan College of Engineering, is the creator of this fleet of high tech, 3D printed “SmartCarts.” The Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet recently shadowed Olson and his team testing SmartCarts at Mcity, the autonomous and connected vehicle test site that is operated by the U-M Mobility Transformation Center.

“It’s an Uber-esque service, but without the driver. We envision dozens—or hundreds—of SmartCarts moving around U-M’s North Campus. Users would simply use their smart phones to request a ride and the vehicle would pick them up on its own,” said Olson. “The goal of SmartCarts is for us to understand the challenges of an on-demand transportation system built around autonomous cars.”

SmartCarts utilizes specialized software that stitches together data to create a 3D map for the cart to follow. Along with Olson, Ryan Eustice, associate professor of naval architecture and marine engineering at the U-M College of Engineering, has contributed to the development of the technology. Olson and Eustice’s team have been working on a second project, AirMetrics Analytics, which applies this software to carbon fiber airframe inspection, insuring stability and security in aircraft hardware.

AirMetrics is funded through the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) Transportation Program, jointly run by the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Office of Technology Transfer at the University. Through a 4D ultrasonic automated scan system, data is stitched together to create a comprehensive inspection map of the airframe. AirMetrics data management and analytics allow plane owners to decrease downtime by 80% over current inspection methods.

“Ed (Olson) and Ryan’s (Eustice) research has, and will continue to accelerate autonomous vehicle development. They are solving larger problems beyond the car,” said Jay Ellis, director of the MTRAC Transportation.

For more information about these projects and MTRAC Transportation contact Jay Ellis, jwellis@umich.edu.