Huskies Hit The Road

Aerial view of test tracks with rectangular straight-aways and a curving route circled by trees
Aerial view of test tracks with rectangular straight-aways and a curving route circled by trees
Students in the Robotics Systems Enterprise are heading to Road America in Elkart, Wisconsin, to run tests on their autonomous vehicle.

Students and faculty conduct autonomous vehicle testing at Road America in preparation for April AutoDrive Challenge.

Over Michigan Tech’s spring break, in typical Husky fashion, the Michigan Technological University Robotics Systems Enterprise (RSE) AutoDrive Challenge Team will hit the road and the track. With their autonomous vehicle in tow, the team, called Prometheus Borealis after the Greek deity responsible for bringing technology to man and the greek deity representing the north wind, will head to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, to run tests on their autonomous vehicle.

Last year the team became one of eight universities selected to attend the inaugural SAE International AutoDrive scheduled for April 30-May 5. 

The AutoDrive challenge is a collegiate design competition sponsored by SAE International and GM. Teams must convert a Chevrolet Bolt EV into an SAE Level 4 autonomous vehicle. In the first year, the team’s autonomous vehicles must:

  1. Stop at course markings while staying in lane
  2. Follow a curved road while staying within lane markings
  3. Traverse a multi-lane road containing cones and other obstacles

Prometheus Borealis is comprised of 40 students and three faculty advisors: Jeremy Bos of electrical and computer engineering, Darrell Robinette of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics, and Timothy Havens, computer science. Bos, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, will accompany students to Road America. Bos’ expertise in autonomous vehicles and vehicular networks, as well as industrial automation and controls makes him a perfect mentor for the students as they outfit their Chevy Bolt.

"My own contribution to this effort is called ‘Autonomy at the End of the Earth.’ My research focuses on the operation of autonomous vehicles in hazardous weather. Specifically, the ice and snow we encounter on a daily basis between November and April."Jeremy Bos

Established in 1955, Road America is a 640-acre park-like venue located midway between Milwaukee and Green Bay, Wisconsin. Road America is one of 10 federally designated Automated Vehicle Proving Grounds. Over the course of several days, the team will test drive their vehicle on Road America’s four-mile, 14-turn road circuit. Specifically, their testing will focus on:

  • Ride quality: The vehicle must stay within acceleration/jerk limits
  • Time: How long the vehicle takes to completion any/all dynamic challenges
  • The car’s speed: For year one, the car must go 25 mph
  • Vehicle Operation, which only trained safety drivers can perform
  • Effectiveness of the E-stop (emergency stop switch): Upon activation or press, press must be logged to include elements like the car’s rate of deceleration, logs will be inspected by conference organizers

While the testing will make for long and tiring days, the team anticipates the process will go well. After all, Prometheus Borealis has been hard at work on their vehicle all year, all while documenting their process along the way. Keep up with the team’s progress and see the results of their testing by visiting their Facebook page.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.