Deakin University partners GM to design cars of the future

General Motors has teamed up with Victoria's Deakin University to focus on the design and development of solutions for the future of the automotive market.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Researchers at Deakin University have partnered with General Motors (GM) to focus on developing "innovative and competitive" solutions for the future of the automotive market.

"Deakin has been at the forefront of solutions to issues facing the automotive industry across the world, including the simultaneous reduction of cost and carbon emissions," deputy vice-chancellor research professor of Deakin, Lee Astheimer said.

"We already have a number of programs to address these issues in partnership with the industry and suppliers, so it is really exciting for us to be able to begin this new solution-based partnership with General Motors Global Research."

Astheimer said the new partnership would be set up as a formal organisation that would have a board and directors, which is set to be chaired by GM's Tom Stoughton, joined by Deakin's professor Jeong Yoon as chief investigator.

The partnership will be driven by Deakin's School of Engineering and Institute for Frontier Materials researchers, as well as members from industry and suppliers, such as Korean automotive companies including steel-makers Posco; automotive parts manufacturer Sungwoo HiTech; and national research laboratories including the Korea Institute for Industrial Technology and the Korea Institute for Materials Science. The US-based commercial software group Livermore Software Technology and global virtual prototyping company ESI Group will also be present.

The research and development will be performed out of the International Centre for Innovative Manufacturing (ICIM) in Geelong, Victoria, which Deakin and GM opened on Wednesday.

Deakin said the centre would develop technology-driven automotive products. It said the initial focus of the new centre will be to develop advanced constitutive and failure models, including calibration test procedures, before implementing the models into commercial software.

At the beginning of the year, GM's chief technology officer Jon Lauckner said his company is open to the idea of collaborating with Google on developing autonomous vehicle technology.

"I'm not in charge of deciding what we will and won't do, but I'd say we'd certainly be open to having a discussion with them," he said in an interview with Reuters.

At the time, Lauckner said that many people who are currently working on Google's autonomous vehicle program have worked with GM in the past, and he would be "completely surprised" if Google did not have a strong contribution to give to autonomous vehicle research and development.

Google, which is part of the self-driving car space, announced last week that it was pondering a potential move towards the mass manufacture of self-driving cars currently undergoing testing. Sarah Hunter, head of policy for GoogleX, told an audience at the California Public Utilities Commission the company will be making a "few hundred" of the self-driving vehicles in order to "actually build a self-driving vehicle from the ground up."

Google recently admitted that its self-driving cars have been involved in 11 accidents in the past six years, but said all collisions were caused by other drivers.

In July, the South Australian government, together with the national independent road research agency ARRB Group announced that driverless cars will be tested on Adelaide roads in November this year.

As part of the ARRB's Australia Driverless Vehicle Initiative, the independent agency will run trials and demonstrations on the Southern Expressway at Tonsley Innovation Park, and at Adelaide Airport to test the self-driving and self-parking functionality of the newly released Volvo XC90.

Last week, international ridesharing app Uber gave $5.5 million to Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to drive its autonomous car development, in a bid to focus on technology developments to improve customer safety.

Uber said the partnership will provide a forum for Uber technology leaders to work closely with CMU faculty, staff, and students -- both on campus and at the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) -- to do research and development, primarily in the areas of mapping and vehicle safety and autonomy technology.

Earlier this month, Tokyo-based electronics manufacturer Sony said it was not ruling out entering the automotive market, with the company's CEO Kazuo Hirai telling the Financial Review his company is open to the possibility of rolling out a vehicle in partnership with a traditional carmaker, saying the advent of electric cars has lowered entry barriers for new players.

In August, Nokia sold its 'Here' maps for €2.8 billion to Audi, BMW, and Daimler, with each party taking an equal share; later that month the Germany-based Daimler announced its autonomous 'Future Truck' would be driving itself into real traffic.

Earlier this year, Japanese car manufacturer Nissan said it will have road-ready autonomous cars by 2020. Hyandai also said it was pushing for commercial self-driving cars within the next five years, whilst Ford announced it was moving its autonomous driving technology research plans upward to a full-scale advanced engineering program.

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