May 9, 2023
Written by: Christopher Estrada
ANN ARBOR—Old sports rivalries were sidelined, at least for a couple days, when ground vehicle professionals from across the industry, academia, and government met last month at the University of Michigan for its annual program review of the Automotive Research Center (ARC).
The ARC, sponsored by U.S. Army DEVCOM Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC), is a U.S. Army Center of Excellence for the modeling and simulation of ground vehicles. It is a collection of researchers in academia and government, supported by industry that collaborates on challenges and capability gaps with the ground vehicles space.
The two-day annual program review sees researchers and mentors from across the ARC come together to provide updates on developments within the community.
Dr. David Gorsich, Chief Scientist at GVSC, has been involved with the ARC since its inception in 1994, helping shape the organization’s research and development of the next generation of autonomous vehicles for both military and commercial use.
“The ARC is not just about research, but partnerships,” Gorsich said. “Our projects have professors, students, industry partners and government engineers and scientists. Those are our Quads. That partnership is key to not only transition ground vehicle research, but also the interaction and where that research goes.”
Annual review participants spend considerable time diving into case studies and listening to keynote addresses from ground vehicle subject matter experts. Several key aspects of ground vehicle development, such as safety, sensors, and off-road capabilities are the center of discussion.
GVSC Senior Technical Expert Dr. Paramsothy Jayakumar delivered a keynote presentation, addressing the Applied Vehicle Technology (AVT) – 341 panel, a collaborative effort between North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations to improve the capabilities of autonomous ground vehicles.
“The rigor of ARC research combined with the technical know-how of GVSC and NATO community is resulting in soldier-centric technology solutions in the emerging and disruptive field of offroad autonomous mobility,” Jayakumar said.
“Through the ARC and GVSC’s involvement with NATO on panels such as AVT-341 brings fresh ideas and introspection to S&T on the global scale,” Jayakumar said.
In another keynote, Army Col. Jeffrey Jurand, Project Manager, Maneuver Combat Systems at PEO Ground Combat Systems, discussed new ways to digitize the acquisition process, including steps toward synchronization between government and industry to achieve a broader-scale process.
The annual program review is also a chance for GVSC employees to network with their industry and academic counterparts via one-on-one sessions. GVSC employees acted as leads for individual groups and facilitated discussions on finding solutions to ground vehicle problems. They were able to share their expertise, exchange contact information and build mutually beneficial relationships within the industry.
Day 2 concluded with a final presentation on the Robotic Technology Kernel (RTK), led by GVSC’s Dr. Jonathan Smereka, Senior Technical Expert for Ground Vehicle Robotics.
RTK is an Army S&T autonomy software library of tested, vetted, managed, inter-compatible ROS packages, which together establish a de facto common robotics platform and can be combined to form parts or all autonomy kits for ground robots.
“RTK collects Government S&T investment in off-road, military focused autonomy for ground vehicles that allows for any DoD program to have a tested and vetted baseline to improve upon,” Smereka said.
The result of GVSC’s contributions to the ARC over the years proves that investing in the ground vehicle research ecosystem pays dividends for the community on a global scale.
“The annual review is a great example of what happens when we focus on the partnerships,” Gorsich said. “When our associates develop tools like the RTK, and that contributes towards a collective effort of advancing the research on ground vehicles, we can move more quickly to transition.
“Collaboration leads to innovation, and the union between government, academia and industry within the ARC will lead towards a faster realization of ground vehicle autonomy,” he said.