Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Soldier safety and future mobility discussed at conference

In Iraq in 2008, a soldier wrote this note on the door of an advanced armored vehicle: “This truck saved my life, as well as five others …”

It was not an isolated incident. Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, have kept thousands of troops safe from improvised explosive devices in recent years.

  This note was found on the door of a U.S. Army advanced armored vehicle in Iraq. (Photo courtesy of the College of Engineering)

On Monday, U.S. Army Chief Scientist Scott Fish showed a photo of the soldier’s handwriting to more than 350 academic, military and industry researchers at the Automotive Research Center’s annual conference at the College of Engineering.

“This is a great success story,” Fish said, of the specially designed trucks that went from the lab to the battlefield in just 17 months. “We’re counting on organizations like the ARC to keep the innovation coming.”

ARC, headquartered at Michigan Engineering, is an Army Center of Excellence for advancing high-fidelity modeling and simulation of military and civilian ground vehicles. The MRAP is just one of the technologies its researchers have helped to move forward.

“Quite a bit of the ARC’s modeling and simulation tools were drawn from in MRAP development,” said David Gorsich, chief scientist at the Army’s Warren-based Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC).

The annual conference, now in its 18th year, brings together automotive researchers from universities, government and industry to share their latest developments, discuss Army-relevant efforts and leverage and transfer these efforts to industry.

“It is the interplay among these sectors that drives the economy,” said Steven Forrest, vice president for research and the William Gould Dow Collegiate Professor of Electrical Engineering. “Given the expertise of the region, we are now poised for an explosion of innovation, much like the one that sparked the automotive industry.”

The region, Forrest said, is home to the key research facilities for more than 300 automotive manufacturers and suppliers around the world.

Phat Truong, an engineer with the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, sits at the wheel of the Clandestine Extended Range Vehicle, which illustrates much of the research occurring at the U-M-based Center for Automotive Research. (Photo by James Rotz, College of Engineering)  

ARC researchers are working on projects to improve fuel economy and vehicle safety, to develop high-capacity batteries and strong lightweight materials, and to advance robotic technology, among many other objectives with both military and civilian applications.

On display at the conference is the Clandestine Extended Range Vehicle (CERV). Jointly designed by Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies and TARDEC’s National Automotive Center, CERV is meant for reconnaissance, surveillance and target designation. It can maintain speeds of 80 mph and climb 60 percent grades while reducing fuel consumption by up to 25 percent compared with its conventional counterparts. For the Army, reduced fuel consumption translates into fewer fuel convoys and fewer casualties on the battlefield.

"In the CERV, you can see many aspects of the research problems we are addressing at the ARC," said Anna Stefanopoulou, professor of mechanical engineering, naval architecture and marine engineering, and director of the ARC. "From our work on seat restraint, to the electric hybrid series powertrain, to the composite material and lightweighting we are developing jointly with Ford."