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Clemson University and EY US to develop ‘edge-case’ autonomous racecar

September 28th, 2020

GREENVILLE – Clemson University has collaborated with professional services firm Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) to advance autonomous vehicle (AV) technology to be used by competitors in the Indy Autonomous Challenge. Thirty teams from 39 universities across the world have registered to compete in the first high-speed head-to-head autonomous race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).

Female student looking at computer with blueprint

High-speed racing requires lightning-fast reflexes and advanced driver training to both optimize vehicle performance and maneuver around other drivers at similarly high speeds. These extreme — or edge-case — scenarios offer a rare testbed to develop and validate automated driving technology.

Through Deep Orange, one of Clemson’s flagship programs, automotive engineering students will develop the high-speed, self-driving, open-wheel racecar as part of their two-year graduate studies. Undergraduate and graduate teams from other universities will develop the driverless car software, which will then be imported and run on the Clemson-designed vehicle. The project aims to advance driverless technology for passenger cars and equip Clemson automotive engineering students with direct experience in the field.

“We see a lot of opportunities in the mobility sector, but we need a talented workforce to overcome the current challenges and propel autonomous forward into adoption,” says Steve Patton, EY Americas Mobility Leader. “Working alongside the engineering students at Clemson has given me a positive outlook on the future of innovation and the future of our workforce.”

In addition to being a lead sponsor of Deep Orange 12, EY US is providing thought leadership and professional seminars to the student team on topics driving the future of the mobility industry including the automotive value chain, emerging ecosystems and new business models.

Two male students looking at computer on desk with car parts

Deep Orange 12 is part of Clemson University’s long-running Deep Orange rapid prototype vehicle program housed at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR). Now in its 12th year, the program addresses technology challenges facing the mobility industry with an innovative concept vehicle. Deep Orange develops the next generation of engineering leaders through an immersive educational experience within the Department of Automotive Engineering.

Deep Orange 12 addresses two major challenges affecting the automotive industry today: connectivity and automation. For optimum safety and efficiency, self-driving vehicles will need to receive and process incredible amounts of data, from infrastructure and satellites to other vehicles on the road. Research also shows a strong need for more — and more frequent — high-visibility demonstrations of autonomous technology in action to drive public acceptance and use.

For this project, Clemson students must not only replace the driver’s interactions with the vehicle using electronic steering, brake and throttle controls but also design a complex set of perception sensors and on-board computers that analyze the racing environment. These systems include a suite of lidars, radars, cameras and high-precision GPS systems that mirror the way human drivers receive and process information, which is then used to locate vehicles on the track and strategize how to beat the competition. The Deep Orange 12 student team is also designing a powertrain specifically around the requirements of autonomous racing.

“The extreme engineering behind motorsports has often been used as a testbed to push the boundaries of consumer vehicle technology,” says Robert Prucka, Deep Orange 12 faculty lead and Kulwicki Endowed Professor in Motorsports Engineering with the Robert H. Brooks Sports Science Institute and associate professor with the Clemson University Department of Automotive Engineering. “This is an incredible opportunity for students to not only work with advanced racing technologies but have a hand in driving solutions for one of the most pressing engineering challenges facing the mobility industry today.”

Millions of fans watch motorsports events every year, and an undeniable part of the appeal are the skills and personalities of the drivers themselves, according to Prucka. With more advanced sensors, software and connectivity, the results of Deep Orange 12 could produce additional driver safety and crash-prevention benefits for today’s racing series.

“Even a fraction of a second can make the difference between a near miss and a collision, especially at racing speeds,” says Prucka . “By making competitor information available to the racecar through connectivity, the technologies we are developing can provide advanced collision warning to drivers behind the wheel.”

By collaborating with industry leaders such as EY US, students gain unique hands-on experience and expertise that lead to successful careers after graduation. Over two years, students gain business acumen and hands-on experience in vehicle design, development, prototyping and production planning. Students develop comprehensive technical knowledge as well as valuable “soft skills” that are often overlooked in traditional engineering programs.

Deep Orange relies on a network of equipment, software, facilities and professionals to help students deliver their prototype vehicle within just two years. With EY US as primary sponsor, supporting partners include Energy Systems Network, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) and the Robert H. Brooks Sports Science Institute.

“Our goal with Deep Orange is to shape the next generation of engineering leaders with real-world projects that prepare them to develop solutions to tomorrow’s mobility challenges,” says Chris Paredis, BMW Endowed Chair in Automotive Systems Integration and Deep Orange Program Director. “A project as complex as engineering a high-performance racecar with state-of-the-art autonomous technology makes for a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience. Our students earn both the skills and confidence to innovate and improve the interconnected mobility systems of the future.”

Announced in late 2019 at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, the Indy Autonomous Challenge is a $1.5 million university prize competition organized by Energy Systems Network and IMS to win the world’s first head-to-head, high-speed autonomous race on October 23, 2021. IMS hosts the annual Indianapolis 500, the largest single-day sporting event in the world.

The competition has attracted university teams from around the world, all of which are developing their own driverless vehicle algorithms. After extensive simulation testing and validation, each team’s code will be used to control a vehicle for the race at IMS’s 2.5-mile oval track. The vehicle used by these race teams will be based on the prototype developed in the Deep Orange 12 program at CU-ICAR.

While engineering students drive each Deep Orange project, they benefit from Clemson’s world-class cabinet of cross-disciplinary researchers within the Department of Automotive Engineering. Students also utilize the University’s state-of-the-art automotive facilities and testing equipment for the project, operating out of the 9,000-square-foot AVX Mobility Systems Innovation Lab on the CU-ICAR campus.


About EY
EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, strategy, transaction and consulting services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

EY refers to the global organization, and may refer to one or more, of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. Information about how EY collects and uses personal data and a description of the rights individuals have under data protection legislation are available via ey.com/privacy. For more information about our organization, please visit ey.com.

Deep Orange
Deep Orange is a flagship program of Clemson University’s two-year master’s program focused on systems integration in automotive engineering. The program provides students with experience in market analysis, concept exploration, vehicle design, prototyping and manufacturing while balancing costs and design targets in an aggressive timeline. The innovative vehicle prototype program encourages students to push the boundaries of conventional design and engineering.

Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research
The Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) is a 250-acre advanced-technology research campus where university, industry and government organizations collaborate. CU-ICAR offers master’s and Ph.D. programs in automotive engineering and is conducting leading-edge applied research in critical areas, such as advanced product-development strategies, sustainable mobility, intelligent manufacturing systems and advanced materials. CU-ICAR has industrial-scale laboratories and testing equipment in world-class facilities.

CU-ICAR expands industry offerings with Technology Neighborhood III

September 10th, 2020

U.S. Economic Development Administration providing $2M for neighborhood’s first building

GREENVILLE, S.C. – Home to 21 global businesses, the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) is expanding its footprint on the 250-acre campus with a new technology neighborhood, Technology Neighborhood III. The first building in the neighborhood will be a multi-tenant 40,000-square-foot high-bay facility supported by $2 million in funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA).

“As a contributor to the state’s knowledge economy, world-class facilities like those at CU-ICAR are critical. TN3 will support our students, researchers and industry partners with an innovative environment in which to prosper,” said Clemson President Jim Clements. “We are so appreciative of the continued support from our partners at the EDA for believing in our vision and providing funding to support these efforts, which will in turn allow us to support South Carolina’s economy.”

On Thursday, Dana Gartzke, assistant secretary of commerce for economic development, had an opportunity to tour the CU-ICAR campus and award Clemson with the $2 million EDA grant.

“Working alongside the City of Greenville, the state of South Carolina and our partners in Washington D.C. makes it possible for Clemson to provide state-of-the-art facilities that will help our strategic corporate partners grow and flourish,” said Angie Leidinger, vice president for External Affairs. “CU-ICAR has continued to grow since its inception 15 years ago from an automotive focus to be inclusive of the mobility industry in response to the needs of industry. This expansion is a further testament to our ability to support our partners, our state and our students.”

The building is designed to accommodate new and growing companies in the Upstate. The building aims to fill a void in the local real estate market for high-quality multi-purpose facilities that can accommodate a range of businesses, from startup companies to established firms in the automotive, transportation, manufacturing and engineering support service industries.

Technology Neighborhood III is CU-ICAR’s first new neighborhood in 15 years. First announced in 2003, CU-ICAR was founded to be an advanced-technology neighborhood where academia and industry converge. CU-ICAR announced the opening of its first building in 2007 and finished its sixth building in Technology Neighborhood in 2016.

“From OEMs to suppliers in automotive, aerospace and beyond, our global reputation is directly tied to our ability to support Clemson’s partners and advance economic development in South Carolina,” said Jack Ellenberg, associate vice president of Corporate Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives. “CU-ICAR is a unique research park in that it’s not just a location, it’s a campus with active academic programs where companies can interact with other organizations, outstanding researchers and Clemson students, making it an asset to Greenville, our development allies and the state.”

The facility is planned as a multi-tenant high-bay, flexible laboratory and office building shell project intended for business tenants. Anticipated businesses located in the building may have high-bay spaces in 5,000 to 6,000 square foot bays for laboratory, small-scale distribution, engineering/ technical services, etc. with truck access at the rear. It is anticipated that some tenants may desire office spaces located in the front areas of the building.

LICAR LLC, an entity of the Clemson University Land Stewardship Foundation ( CULSF), will be the developer and owner of the facility. CULSF is an independent, non-profit entity that seeks to support Clemson through the development of real property in ways that to maximize the educational, research and economic development mission of the University.

Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research
The Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) is a 250-acre advanced-technology research campus where university, industry and government organizations collaborate. CU-ICAR offers master’s and Ph.D. programs in automotive engineering and is conducting leading-edge applied research in critical areas, such as advanced product-development strategies, sustainable mobility, intelligent manufacturing systems and advanced materials. CU-ICAR has industrial-scale laboratories and testing equipment in world-class facilities.

Fall 2020 Update

July 22nd, 2020

Clemson University recognized for innovation in engineering education

June 1st, 2020

WYFF 4’s Chronicle looks back at BMW’s 25 years in the Upstate

January 16th, 2020

Clemson University automotive engineers invent ‘single-shot’ manufacturing technology

January 31st, 2019

New technology that was invented at Clemson University could help reduce the time and cost it takes to manufacture components that are composed of different materials and need to be joined together, researchers said.

Even better, the process could be automated with the help of artificial intelligence, they said.

Srikanth Pilla, right, and Saeed Farahani inspect some of the parts they created as part of their research into hybrid single-shot manufacturing of metals and composites.

Srikanth Pilla and Saeed Farahani are calling their technology “hybrid single-shot manufacturing of metals and composites.”

It’s aimed at streamlining the manufacturing of some components, such as the center consoles in high-end cars, said Pilla, the Jenkins Endowed Professor in the Department of Automotive Engineering and the founding director of Clemson Composites Center.

One of the goals is to reduce the cost of making vehicles lighter, which improves their mileage and helps automotive companies meet federal fuel efficiency standards. But researchers said the technology could be used in a variety of industries, including home appliance manufacturing.

The technology could be ready for the manufacturing floor in as little as two years, Pilla said.

When some parts are made conventionally, one machine stamps sheet metal into the desired shape, and another machine creates polymer or composite parts. Then the pieces are bonded together with glue.

In hybrid single-shot manufacturing, it’s all done in one machine. The technology can be used in existing equipment, obviating the need for major capital investment, Pilla said.

The new method could reduce infrastructure costs and cycle time, while helping ensure that the pieces are mistake free and fit snugly together.

Pilla illustrated the work with a half-moon-shaped piece of polymer that was embedded in a rectangular piece of sheet metal.

“We are shooting the polymer into the sheet metal, and that is deforming the sheet metal,” he said. “While it’s deforming, it’s also bonding to the sheet metal. So, it’s one single operation.”

Farahani moved to Greenville from Tehran Polytechnic to work under Pilla as a Ph.D. student at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research.

“When I found this research topic in the literature, I thought, ‘This is going to be perfect for me,’” Farahani said. “My academic background is metal forming, but my experience is mostly on composite and plastic tool design. So with this subject, I can combine these two together.”

Pilla said the team’s approach to the research is unique.

“Maybe one or two research groups in the world have been working on this, but they are all looking at it from the metals side,” he said. “We actually flipped the problem, and we said, ‘This one people will do, and it’s easy to do because sheet metal has a pretty established methodology.’

“Also, my expertise is in polymers and composites, so it makes sense to investigate the problem by flipping it.”

As part of the research, Farahani built a “concept design tool,” and covered it with sensors that measure everything from temperature to pressure. He also created his own software that allows researchers to create a computer model of the machine’s process, also called a “digital twin.”

The digital twin coupled with artificial intelligence is playing a crucial role in teaching the machine to operate on its own.

For the tool to learn, it needs to make mistakes. But allowing the tool to run hundreds of cycles would be too expensive.

Instead, researchers have conducted a limited number of experiments with the machine. Now they are feeding data from the experiments into the machine’s digital twin, along with physics-based models that helps the machine understand its limitations.

“We are saying that science has limits, and these are the limits for you,” Pilla said of the message to the machine. “Then the machine will know what it’s capabilities are and accordingly it will try to learn by itself.”

The research helped Farahani secure his Ph.D. in automotive engineering in December. He is continuing this work as a postdoctoral researcher in Pilla’s lab to further refine the digital twin.

Researchers also plan to test the new technology at the Clemson Composites Center with the goal of making real components.


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