Auburn University, Ford team up to improve stability in vehicles

Published: Oct 21, 2009 1:00:00 AM
Media Contact: Ed Enoch,

Source: Opelika-Auburn News

AU GPS Ford Taurus car

AU mechanicical engineering Ph.D. candidate Jonathan Ryan manuevers a Ford Taurus through an obsticle course testing the Auburn GPS and Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory research into using GPS to enhance the performance of stability control systems on the AU NCIT Asphalt Test Track Monday. The lab is working via a $120,000 research grant from Ford. Photo taken by Vasha Hunt | Opelika-Auburn News.

Auburn graduate student Jonathan Ryan does his best to lose control as he whips a red Ford Taurus around a parking lot at Auburn University's NCAT Pavement Test Track near Spring Villa.

The second-year Ph.D. student and the Taurus are part of a three-year, $120,000 grant from Ford for AU's GPS and Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory to study the potential of using GPS to enhance the existing electronic stability controls in vehicles.

As Ryan darts through a short course and jerks the car into screeching turns, instruments in the trunk track the car's movement.

The research is using information gathered with GPS and an inertial measurement unit to improve the performance of a vehicle's stability control system, which makes adjustments to engine throttle and breaking on individual wheels among other things to help drivers maintain control, according to David Bevly, director of the lab and Mechanical Engineering faculty member.

"What's interesting about this technology is its meant to prevent the accident," Bevly said. "It's a entirely new way of looking at safety."

The lab has been researching the technology for about eight years, Bevly said. The grant is part of a $4 million investment by Ford in university research, according to a release.

Ryan said pairing the GPS with the existing sensors in a car would allow for more accurate measurement of how the car is moving and better information for a car's stability control system when it needs to make corrections.
While advanced control systems are offered as options on high-end domestic and imports now, Bevly noted National Highway Traffic Safety Administration mandates would require stability control systems on all new cars by 2011.

Bevly said when the technology would appear on production models would depend on car makers.

"We show the research part, but then it would be up to the manufacturers like Ford to decide how practical it is," Bevly said.

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