Lawrence Tech is global champ of self-driving cars—for the third year in a row

SOUTHFIELD—For the third consecutive year, Lawrence Technological University has won first place in the Self-Drive Challenge event at the 27th annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition. LTU was crowned champ late Monday after four days of competition at Oakland University in Rochester.

The winning vehicle is called ACTor, for Autonomous Campus Transport/Taxi. The two-seat Polaris Gem electric vehicle was donated to the university through a gift from Hyundai MOBIS, the parts and service division of the Korean automaker.

Dataspeed Inc., a Rochester Hills engineering firm specializing in mobile robotics, converted the vehicle to a drive-by-wire system. Also donating to the effort were a pair of Ann Arbor high-tech firms. Soar Technology Inc. provided a LIDAR (laser-based radar) unit to help the vehicle find its way, while Realtime Technologies Inc., a simulation technology firm, and the auto supplier Denso provided cash donations for onboard computers and other parts. Veoneer, a spinoff of the Swedish auto supplier Autoliv, provided a 3D LIDAR as well as automotive radars.

The win included a $3,000 prize and plaque.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University of Daytona Beach, Fla. finished second in the event, while Bob Jones University of Greenville, S.C. finished third. Other competitors in the Self-Drive challenge included Oakland University, the University of Detroit-Mercy, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and New York University.

Coached by C.J. Chung, professor of computer science at LTU, the team was comprised of undergraduate computer science majors Sean Bleicher of Fenton, Charles Faulkner of Aurora, Ill., and Mitchell Pleune of Rochester Hills, team captain. Nick Paul of Plymouth, an LTU IGVC team alumnus now employed at Soar Technology and an adjunct professor at LTU, was a co-coach.

The IGVC was established in 1993 by the U.S. Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Ground Vehicle Systems Center (formerly known as TARDEC) and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). Sponsors include GLS&T, RoboNation, Hyundai MOBIS, the Michigan chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association, Continental, Northrop Grumman, Veoneer, Molex, OpenJAUS, Roush, Robotic Research, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, FEDITC LLC, FEV, IAmRobotics, Magna, General Dynamics Land Systems, Brightwing, Dataspeed, and MathWorks.

Lawrence Technological University,, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Management. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 100 universities for the salaries of its graduates, and U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best Midwestern universities. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.

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