Defense industry group becomes sponsor of Lawrence Tech autonomous vehicle team

SOUTHFIELD—The National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) Michigan Chapter has become a sponsor of Lawrence Technological University’s team in a global competition for autonomous vehicles in which LTU is three-time defending global champion.

“In our efforts to both promote STEM (Science , Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education and connect the defense industry with academia, we were pleased and honored to assist LTU in this global competition,” said Patty Lopez, NDIA Michigan Chapter STEM director.

LTU is developing two fully autonomous and fully collaborative self-driving vehicles. LTU now owns two Polaris GEM e2 two-seat electric vehicles, and the LTU team is using a variety of sensors, systems, and software to turn them into fully autonomous and fully collaborative self-driving vehicles, according to C.J. Chung, LTU professor of mathematics and computer science and the faculty leader on the project.

The overall effort began in 2018 with a three-year, $150,000 subcontract from the U.S. Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC), subcontracted through Chesterfield Township-based Great Lakes Systems & Technology LLC, a ground vehicle technology and engineering firm.

Chung and a team of LTU faculty and students are now fitting the second GEM e2 vehicle with cameras, laser-based radar, GPS systems, and computers to make it autonomous. Chung said the biggest and most challenging task is developing software for self-driving vehicle functions, since that must be built from the ground up.

Chung said an invitation-only dedication of the second vehicle is planned for May on LTU’s campus.

LTU’s cars will compete in the 2021 Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition, scheduled for June 4-7 at Oakland University (see (The 2020 competition was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.)

Other sponsors of the LTU IGVC team are: Dataspeed Inc., the Rochester Hills autonomous vehicle products and services provider; DENSO, the Japanese auto supplier; Soar Technology Inc., the Ann Arbor-based artificial intelligence firm; and RealTime Technologies, the Ann Arbor-based driving simulation developer.

Working with Chung are faculty co-sponsors Nick Paul, an LTU alumnus, adjunct faculty member, and Soar Technology employee, and Joe DeRose, an LTU adjunct faculty member and Ford Motor Co. employee. Another LTU graduate assisting is Mitchell Pleune, now an employee of Veoneer, the Swedish automotive electronics developer with U.S. headquarters in Southfield.

Team members are LTU students Thomas Brefeld, Justin Dombecki, James Golding, and Joseph Schulte. Dombecki and Golding are working toward master’s degrees in computer science, while Brefeld and Schulte are working toward a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

Lawrence Technological University,, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers nearly 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, and Engineering. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 11 percent of 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.

The NDIA Michigan Chapter Connects to Protect Our Nation. It supports our nations’ warfighters by being the premier connector within Michigan’s defense community. The NDIA Michigan Chapter is an organization with a passion for bridging the gap between those who provide and those who use the best and latest in equipment and technology to keep our nation and its defenders safe.

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