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Eastern Michigan University to introduce autonomous vehicles to campus

In an effort to highlight its commitment to technology, Eastern Michigan University's (EMU) GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology announced plans to deploy autonomous shuttles this school year and to open a new research and development space at the American Center for Mobility (ACM) in Ypsilanti, Mich.

The Olli is an advanced car shuttle manufactured by Local Motors and current plans call for two Ollis to be in operation on campus later this year.

"These projects represent a dynamic step forward for the University," said Eastern Michigan University President James Smith. "Having our students engaged and active in the world of autonomous vehicles, and the research that takes place on our campus and at the American Center for Mobility, will give them a distinct advantage as they pursue their future careers. It is important to acknowledge the ongoing contribution of the GameAbove alumni group and its support of projects such as these. I am truly thankful for GameAbove's involvement."

"In order to remain a top tier engineering and technology college, commitments like these are necessary," said Mohamad Qatu, dean of the GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology. "Not only will the Ollis enable our students to receive hands on experience working with autonomous vehicles, but they will also provide transportation for the greater campus community. The space at ACM offers a world class facility that will bring us closer to companies working on autonomous vehicles and cybersecurity. This agreement will help to further establish EMU as a major educational institution on autonomous and connected vehicles."

Ollis Update

One of the shuttles that will be transporting students and faculty later this year will be on display tonight outside Rynearson Stadium for EMU's first football game of the season. The Eagle Shuttle, as it is called on campus, is built by Local Motors as part of the Olli autonomous vehicle platform.

Olli is a low-speed, electric, self-driving shuttle built in Knoxville, Tennessee using advanced manufacturing techniques like 3D-printing. Since their debut in 2016, the shuttles have been deployed in nine countries and safely logged thousands of autonomous miles.

In the coming months this vehicle, along with another, will be given upgrades by EMU students and will transport riders to various places on campus and in the community. Details on the upgrade and shuttle routes will be provided throughout the school year.

"This partnership is important to showing the utility and capability of Ollis," said Jay Rogers, CEO of Local Motors. "The project with EMU will focus on how autonomous solutions, like Olli, connect people with safe transportation alternatives and present new learning opportunities. This kind of deployment, on and around campus, is an ideal setting for Olli."

ACM Lease

EMU's vehicle laboratory at ACM will support ongoing research in the area of autonomous vehicle cybersecurity. EMU began moving into the space at the start of the fall 2021 semester.

In addition to growing its autonomous and connected vehicles work, the partnership supports a new incoming Senior Research Engineer position and will help to secure grants and other projects with industry leaders like Perrone Robotics and others.

"The vision has always been to leverage ACM's smart mobility test center for research, education and workforce development," said Reuben Sarkar, President and CEO of ACM. "ACM is excited to have EMU be the first university to set up residency here, offering exponential benefits and academic opportunities through immersion into a real-world test center, working alongside industry professionals."

GameAbove Support

GameAbove EMU, a group of alumni and EMU supporters, has funded a dedicated senior research scientist to develop curriculum around autonomous vehicles for EMU students. GameAbove has also helped to bring together EMU and Perrone Robotics, a leader in autonomous vehicle technology, for three senior projects at ACM.

"We are always looking at new opportunities to help EMU enhance what they provide to students," said Ashley Beal, Senior Vice President of Operations for CapStone Holdings. "The research position will help advance EMU's commitment to innovation, while connecting the university with Perrone will broaden the experience EMU offers its students."

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