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Jordan Perch loves automotive innovation and that is his ultimate passion. He is managing the resourceful DMV.com and is an active contributor to numerous consumer and automotive blogs.

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3D-Printed Autonomous to Be Tested by University of Michigan

Posted September 29, 2015 10:48 AM by Jordan Perch

It's becoming increasingly clear that the auto industry is moving towards a future shaped around driverless cars and ride-sharing services, with companies like Google and Uber working on autonomous driving technology and offering services that might well make car ownership obsolete. On-demand transportation and driverless cars are the focus of a new research project that is set to launch soon, in a bid to find out how autonomous vehicles can help further advance and perfect the ride-sharing concept.


A team of researchers from the University of Michigan have announced that they will start conducting a study involving driverless cars transporting students after booking a ride through a mobile app. The "SmartCarts" project is scheduled to launch later this year, and last at least 12 months. In addition to driverless cars and ride-hailing apps, this project will involve another technology that promises to revolutionize the auto industry in the future, as the cars that will be used by researchers have been built using 3D printing methods.


A fleet of three 3D-printed cars, built by Phoenix-based Local Motors, will be deployed at the University of Michigan campus, with researchers aiming to test autonomous driving technology, as well as find out how driverless cars behave in a real-world transportation environment and how well they handle various traffic situations.


"The goal of SmartCarts is for us to begin understanding the challenges of a transportation-on-demand system built around autonomous cars," said Edwin Olson, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, who is the lead researcher for this project.


The 3D-printed cars will be fitted with driverless car equipment, which includes sensors and cameras, allowing them to move safely without the help of a human driver. The cars' powertrains are the only component that has not been built using 3D-printing technology, as they are same as those used in a typical golf cart.


Once the cars are ready for deployment, researchers will launch a smartphone app, that students can use to call a car and get a ride around campus, a service similar to those offered by ride-hailing company Uber. Uber, itself, has expressed interest in autonomous cars, with the company CEO recently stating that they would buy each driverless vehicle Tesla builds by 2020, which suggests that combining this technology with a ride-hailing app will be an inevitable part of the auto industry landscape in the future.


The 3D-printed autonomous cars will first be tested at Mcity, a testing ground built by the Mobility Transformation Center, which is a joint project between Michigan Department of Transportation and University of Michigan researchers. The test site, which covers an area of 32 acres, involves various obstacles that the cars will have to try and overcome, along with traffic signals that they will have to be able to recognize and obey.


"Our focus is on transportation as a system," said David Munson, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering. "Lots of people are talking about this as the way of the future, but we're aiming to build a test bed that will allow us to stop talking and start doing. If we can put such a system into service, it would be a huge research enabler on campus, and it would be one of only a few like it in the world."

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Re: 3D-Printed Autonomous to Be Tested by University of Michigan

09/30/2015 3:28 AM

I am continualy surprised that there is never a mention of the possibility of some people might enjoy driving.

I would like to know the total population of real enthusiast car clubs and associations.

Fortunatley for me I will have 'shuffled off' by the time everyone has to have one.

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Re: 3D-Printed Autonomous to Be Tested by University of Michigan

09/30/2015 2:42 PM

I'm with you, I enjoy driving my sports car!

I doubt that they plan to 3D print an entire autonomous car... that doesn't make sense, but it sounds good.

I can see a use for autonomous cars for college campuses...that way nobody has to be the duty (non-drinking) driver!

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