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Advancing Australia’s automotive industry with tech

Credit: RMIT University

The Automotive Engineering Graduate Program is a Commonwealth Government-funded program that supports PhD students to work on research projects together with a car industry partner.

Aside from funding, the students gain access to industry-relevant training.

As reported, three RMIT research projects have been awarded grants totalling over A$ 780,000 to modernise the Australian automotive industry.

The Projects

The projects will focus on developing modern technology around autonomous vehicles and smart monitoring systems. These projects are:

  1. Better navigation systems for self-driving cars

Autonomous vehicles rely on inherently knowing where they are going and where they are at any given time.

The current location information being obtained via GPS and trajectory is not fast or accurate enough to avoid collisions, and therefore the car must rely on sensing road markings and other cues.

This means that cars are dependent on well-maintained markings and may become confused by obstacles such as road works.

For this project, researchers will explore the use of high-precision optical gyroscopes and integrate these with photonic micro-chips, which are small and cheap enough to be used in every self-driving car.

Self-driving cars are expected to reduce traffic backup by reducing stop and go waves that cause road congestion, resulting to fewer traffic jams and lesser emissions.

  1. Monitoring the impacts of autonomous vehicles

Researchers will project the intended and unintended effects of emerging autonomous vehicle technology.

A new computer model will calculate likely issues in road safety, cyber security and privacy, shared mobility, ethical issues, and fuel consumption.

Many impacts are likely to be positive. Government data showed that 94% of crashes are caused by driver error. Thus, self-driving cars can help mitigate the risk.

Fewer crashes caused by driver error may reduce costs of insurance and financial impact of crashes and medical bills.

Self-driving cars could also offer increased levels of freedom to people with disabilities.

This will help them live a more mobile life, enhance independence for seniors, and regain lost time for drivers who will be able to pursue more productive or entertaining activities whilst in transit.

But significant security, privacy and ethical issues also require consideration and planning.

The use of the new computer tool will enable government agencies, road authorities and manufacturers to develop technology and policies that support a sustainable mobility future.

  1. Smartphones as a central control hub

Four PhD scholarships will become available to investigate key areas where wireless technologies can impact user experience and well-being of both automobile occupants and other road users.

New techniques will be explored to enable drivers to use their smart phones to automatically enter and start their car, as well as to enable vehicle sharing, security and other safety and user comfort functions.

Innovative new systems to help protect vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, bicyclists and road workers will also be developed.

Leading the way

The grant success reinforced the University’s strength in mechanical and automotive engineering research.

These projects will train the next generation of technology experts who can meet the future needs of Australian industries with the skills to thrive in an evolving job market.

The grants are among A$ 5 million in funding for 10 research projects handed out to seven universities and more than 100 post graduate engineers across Australia.

According to the Research Development Lead and Discipline Leader (Manufacturing & Mechatronics) at the University’s School of Engineering, Australian manufacturers need to employ digital technologies to modernise their systems and processes in order to remain competitive in the market.

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