GM Challenges Eight Universities to Build Self-Driving Cars

General Motors recently enlisted the workforce of tomorrow to build the cars of tomorrow, issuing a challenge to eight universities to develop autonomous automobiles.

While self-driving vehicles are still years away from showing up in Spencer Chevrolet dealerships and other GM dealerships around the country, progress continues to be made toward making self-driving cars safe and economically feasible. GM has recruited eight universities with excellent reputations in research to compete in a challenge to develop an autonomous vehicle.

Spencer Chevrolet dealerships

GM and SAE International, a worldwide engineering association with more than 120,000 members, recently announced eight finalists that will compete in the AutoDrive Challenge. The finalists are: Virginia Tech, the University of Waterloo, Kettering University, North Carolina A&T University, the University of Michigan, Michigan Tech, the University of Toronto, and Texas A&M.

The challenge tasks the universities with outfitting a Chevrolet Bolt EV with the necessary hardware and software to achieve SAE Level 4 autonomy. At Level 4, vehicles are capable of operating independently within a known, limited environment, such as a freeway. Outside the limited environment, the vehicle must enter a safe failback mode, such as parking the vehicle if the driver does not reclaim control of the vehicle.

Chevy Bolts

Students have three years to develop the autonomous Chevy Bolts. In the first year of the contest, students will develop a paper concept sketch and explore the software for systems that will guide the vehicle. In the second year, students will begin testing their vehicle in tasks such as changing lanes and detecting and avoiding objects on the road. In the third year, the students will finalize their designs and test vehicles on an urban course.

GM is also working on its own autonomous vehicles, but it hopes the challenge will encourage the universities to develop innovations that the automaker can incorporate into its own work. GM is currently operating about 50 autonomous Bolts in San Francisco, Detroit, and Scottsdale to test and refine self-driving automobile technology. The automaker is also working with ride-hailing company Lyft on autonomous vehicle projects.

technological leadership

The Universities

GM carefully selected eight university partners throughout North America to work on the autonomous vehicle project. Each of the colleges selected has a great reputation in fields relevant to the technologies needed to make autonomous cars feasible.

  • Virginia Tech – More formally known as Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia Tech is a large university with its main campus located in Blacksburg, VA. Virginia Tech has a long history of technological leadership and manages a research portfolio of more than $500 million, the largest research portfolio of any university in Virginia. Virginia Tech houses the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), a research organization founded in 1988 tasked with the mission of saving lives and money and protecting the environment through better transportation technology. The institute includes a 2.2-mile Smart Road, a crash lab, and a tire research center, among other facilities. VTTI employs more than 350 personnel and has more than $125 million in active research awards.
  • The University of Waterloo – Located in Ontario, Canada, the University of Waterloo has a strong reputation for research and career readiness education. The University of Waterloo enrolls more than 35,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university runs 41 research centers and institutes, including the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing and the Institute for Quantum Computing. The university has a unique co-operative education program that integrates students’ education with applicable work experiences. The strong research reputation of the University of Waterloo, along with its commitment to providing real-world opportunities for students, made it an ideal candidate to partner with GM for this autonomous automobile program.
  • Kettering University – Kettering University, a private cooperative education and experiential learning university, calls Flint, Michigan home and has long been associated with General Motors. Established in 1919, the university is named after Charles F. Kettering, an inventor and General Motors’ former head of research.

Kettering has traditionally supplied the training ground where many auto industry greats received their education. The university is home to the General Motors Foundation Automotive Research Area, a facility that contains a variety of test areas and an automotive proving ground. All Kettering undergrads must complete an experiential learning program, which typically includes classes and labs and full-time employment with one of the university’s more than 550 partner companies and organizations.

  • North Carolina A&T – North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is a historically black university with an excellent reputation for engineering research. The university’s college of engineering consistently produces the largest number of African-American engineering undergraduates and is a leading producer of African-American graduates in the discipline. The university has an undergraduate enrollment of nearly 9,000 and has produced a wealth of research in transportation systems and computer science pursuits. The university’s major research projects include its Engineering Research Center for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials, the CREST Bioenergy Center, the Center for Behavioral Health and Wellness, the Center for Excellence in Post-Harvest Technologies, and the Center for Advanced Studies in Identity Sciences.
  • The University of Michigan – Michigan’s oldest university, the University of Michigan is considered one of the nation’s pre-eminent research universities. The university has a comprehensive graduate program that offers many doctoral degrees in STEM disciplines. The University of Michigan enrolls more than 40,000 undergraduate and post-graduate students and has an annual research budget of more than $1 billion. The university’s medical school has the largest research budget, with about $445 million, with the college of engineering having the second largest budget, about $160 million. Since the 1960s, the University of Michigan has been at the forefront of computer research.
  • Michigan Tech – Another university located in GM’s home state of Michigan, Michigan Tech is a respected engineering school. About 59 percent of the university’s more than 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled in engineering programs. Alumni of the university include David Hill, the former chief engineer for the Chevrolet Corvette. The university has an Enterprise program that allows students with engineering and design experience to work in business-like environments on real-world projects while completing their education.
  • The University of Toronto – The University of Toronto is one of Canada’s most prestigious universities and has a fantastic reputation for research breakthroughs in many fields. The university led the way in developing insulin and stem cell research, electron microscopes, multi-touch technology, and much more. The University of Toronto has the largest annual research budget of any Canadian university, spending more than $878 million in research in 2010. The University of Toronto consistently receives high rankings among research institutions by respected publications, including the University Ranking by Academic Performance, Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and others.
  • Texas A&M – The largest university in Texas by student enrollment, Texas A&M has solid research credentials and a strong focus on developing new innovations in science and technology with commercial applications. Texas A&M is home to Research Valley and Research Park. Research Valley is a 2.5 million-square-foot facility which houses an alliance of business and educational organizations. Research Park is 500,000 square-foot facility. Texas A&M is one of the top three universities, in terms of research expenditures, and it budgets more than $955 million yearly for research projects. Nearly one-fifth of all Texas A&M students are enrolled in the university’s renowned engineering program.

Community Chevrolet of Spencer looks forward to the day that autonomous vehicles like the ones the eight universities are developing find their way to the company’s Spencer Chevrolet dealership. Until then, consumers seeking cars for sale in Indiana can find great deals on new and pre-owned vehicles at Community Chevrolet of Spencer, a respected Chevy dealer. Call today to test drive your new Chevy 812-829-4843.

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GM Challenges Eight Universities to Build Self-Driving Cars