July 9, 2018

Discovery Park to lead new Innovation Hub for Connected and Autonomous Transportation Technologies

Lidar platform The LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) mobile sensing platform on top of this vehicle is one of the projects to be researched through the new Innovation Hub for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles being established at Purdue’s Discovery Park. (Photo/Lyles School of Civil Engineering) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University’s Discovery Park will lead a nationwide partnership focusing on the expanding research field of connected and autonomous vehicles.

The Innovation Hub for Connected and Autonomous Transportation Technologies will bring together the university, public agencies and private partners in a joint research effort. The partnership was announced Monday (July 9) by Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, chief scientist and executive director of Discovery Park.

Darcy Bullock, the Lyles Family Professor of Civil Engineering and director of the Joint Transportation Research Program, will lead the partnership  through Discovery Park, Purdue University’s complex for major interdisciplinary research activities.

With a nationwide focus, Discovery Park wants to become a liaison bridging all aspects of this evolving field, Díaz de la Rubia said. Discovery Park will support activities to integrate, coordinate and promote connected and autonomous vehicle research and engagement among stakeholders from the university; public agencies, such as the Indiana Department of Transportation; and the private sector.

“The university’s connected and autonomous activities are a natural complement to Indiana’s  Next Level Roads investment of $30 billion over the next 20 years,” said Joe McGuinness, INDOT commissioner.

Discovery Park has dedicated space to the Joint Transportation Research Program in the Hall for Discovery and Learning Research building for leading the work with connected and autonomous vehicles. A laboratory to engage researchers, agencies and private sector partners within the transportation community also has been established in the adjacent garage space.

Bullock said the Innovation Hub will include multidisciplinary work covering numerous fields associated with the evolving area of connected and autonomous vehicles, including artificial intelligence, systems engineering, cybersecurity, machine learning, advanced sensing technology, human factors and public policy.

Purdue and Discovery Park will facilitate collaboration at the forefront of these areas, with a focus on the potential for economic development. A 2017 report by Intel indicates connected and autonomous vehicle research could create $7 trillion in new economic opportunity by 2050. 

Connected and autonomous vehicles are one of the most important transportation innovations, combining technologies for roadway systems, smart infrastructure and first and last mile logistics to develop automated freight transportation. Those and similar technologies, however, deal with systems outside the traditional focus of the automobile industry.

Faculty at Purdue continue to be involved in federal and state programs that focus on the future of transportation.

Ayman Habib, professor of civil engineering and associate director of the Joint Transportation Research Program, is leading a team with advanced mobile mapping systems, which include optical imaging and ranging sensors, to evaluate how alternative traffic signs and roadway markings perform with sensors on emerging autonomous vehicles.

Purdue’s High-Efficiency Control Systems for Connected and Automated Class 8 Trucks project is led by Gregory Shaver, a professor of mechanical engineering. Shaver’s team, including several private sector partners, is developing advanced control algorithms that will provide more fuel-efficient truck operations and reduced emissions.  

“With over $550 billion in freight moving annually along Hoosier highways, we believe there are significant near-term opportunities for Purdue to partner with Indiana businesses and government agencies to establish a leadership position in the commercial vehicle sector of connected and autonomous vehicles,” Bullock said.

Civil engineering professor Samuel Labi will assume the role of associate director of the U.S. Department of Transportation Region 5 Connected and Automated Transportation Center awarded in 2017. The center, in a partnership with the University of Michigan, is part of NEXTRANS, a multidisciplinary program of transportation research, education, and technology.

Vladimir Shalaev, the Bob and Anne Burnett Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, continues to research a novel laser light sensing technology to guide fully autonomous vehicles. The optical frequency-arrayed technique innovation, researched with Stanford University, is orders of magnitude faster than conventional leading-edge laser beam steering devices, scanning a large angle of view in nanoseconds or picoseconds compared with the microseconds current technology takes.

The Innovation Hub for Connected and Autonomous Transportation Technologies will work to identify a portfolio of customers and develop partnerships among federal agencies, state agencies, research centers, other universities and private sector partners within the transportation community.

A roundtable hosted on Capitol Hill by Discovery Park, Purdue Policy Research Institute and the Howard Baker Forum earlier this year featured academic, industry and legislative experts in examining the legal and regulatory issues surrounding a future with driverless vehicles.

Safety remains a top priority for Purdue, with the Innovation Hub’s research intended to achieve the maximum benefits in roadway safety and efficiency. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated there were 37,461 highway fatalities in 2016, up 5.6 percent from 2015. Nine percent of the accidents were reported as distraction-affected crashes. 

Writer: Brian L. Huchel, 765-494-2084, bhuchel@purdue.edu  

Sources: Darcy Bullock, 765-494-2226, darcy@purdue.edu

Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, 765-496-6625, tddlr@purdue.edu

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