Self-driving cars are the future, but we’re not there yet. WMU will help pave the way by developing infrastructure-based technology to improve autonomous vehicles.

On August 5th, President Biden signed an Executive Order that sets an ambitious new target to make half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 zero-emissions vehicles, including battery-electric, plug-in hybrid electric, or fuel cell electric vehicles. The innovative research and experimentation Western Michigan University is doing will help realize that goal.

President Biden is sending a clear message that we can combat climate change while creating good-paying, union jobs right here in Michigan and across the country. Bold actions like today’s will be critical within the next ten years to reduce the harmful impacts of climate change.

-Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Here's what's really interesting: Western Michigan University will be working not necessarily on the cars, but on making roadways more compatible with driverless vehicles. WMU realizes that "cost and convenience are two major barriers keeping fully autonomous vehicles off roads today. The reason is in the engineering: In order for a car to operate fully on its own, it requires large and expensive technology that drains both batteries and bank accounts."

The WMU team will be working on ways to incorporate technology into the infrastructure of roads, highways, bridges, and other driving surfaces to aid self-driving vehicles in navigation. While in motion, the onboard computers continually scan and process information from cameras, sensors, radar, and LiDAR to map their surroundings. This drains a lot of energy from the power source. If that information could be collected by, say, roadside devices and then downloaded instantaneously to the vehicle as it approaches, it could be a game-changer.

I'm excited about this project because it's a fundamentally different approach to achieving autonomous vehicles than what researchers have done to date. What this means for Western is we have a chance to start majorly contributing to the statewide mobility ecosystem. We have a chance to start expanding the entire state of Michigan's influence in this area.

-Dr. Zachary D. Asher, assistant professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering, Western Michigan University

The receipt of a three-year, $2.5 million grant from the Department of Energy to the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences will accelerate research aimed at developing infrastructure-based technology to improve energy efficiency in autonomous vehicles.

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