GREENVILLE – Clemson University has collaborated with professional services firm Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) to advance autonomous vehicle (AV) technology to be used by competitors in the Indy Autonomous Challenge. Thirty teams from 39 universities across the world have registered to compete in the first high-speed head-to-head autonomous race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).

Female student looking at computer with blueprint

By collaborating with industry leaders such as EY US, students gain unique hands-on experience and expertise that lead to successful careers after graduation. Pictured: Shristy Sagar

High-speed racing requires lightning-fast reflexes and advanced driver training to both optimize vehicle performance and maneuver around other drivers at similarly high speeds. These extreme — or edge-case — scenarios offer a rare testbed to develop and validate automated driving technology.

Through Deep Orange, one of Clemson’s flagship programs, automotive engineering students will develop the high-speed, self-driving, open-wheel racecar as part of their two-year graduate studies. Undergraduate and graduate teams from other universities will develop the driverless car software, which will then be imported and run on the Clemson-designed vehicle. The project aims to advance driverless technology for passenger cars and equip Clemson automotive engineering students with direct experience in the field.

“We see a lot of opportunities in the mobility sector, but we need a talented workforce to overcome the current challenges and propel autonomous forward into adoption,” says Steve Patton, EY Americas Mobility Leader. “Working alongside the engineering students at Clemson has given me a positive outlook on the future of innovation and the future of our workforce.”

In addition to being a lead sponsor of Deep Orange 12, EY US is providing thought leadership and professional seminars to the student team on topics driving the future of the mobility industry including the automotive value chain, emerging ecosystems and new business models.

Two male students looking at computer on desk with car parts

The Deep Orange 12 team includes 40 graduate engineering students, who are developing a high-speed, self-driving, open-wheel racecar at CU-ICAR. Pictured: Harsh Patel, Manav Patel

Deep Orange 12 is part of Clemson University’s long-running Deep Orange rapid prototype vehicle program housed at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR). Now in its 12th year, the program addresses technology challenges facing the mobility industry with an innovative concept vehicle. Deep Orange develops the next generation of engineering leaders through an immersive educational experience within the Department of Automotive Engineering.

Deep Orange 12 addresses two major challenges affecting the automotive industry today: connectivity and automation. For optimum safety and efficiency, self-driving vehicles will need to receive and process incredible amounts of data, from infrastructure and satellites to other vehicles on the road. Research also shows a strong need for more — and more frequent — high-visibility demonstrations of autonomous technology in action to drive public acceptance and use.

For this project, Clemson students must not only replace the driver’s interactions with the vehicle using electronic steering, brake and throttle controls but also design a complex set of perception sensors and on-board computers that analyze the racing environment. These systems include a suite of lidars, radars, cameras and high-precision GPS systems that mirror the way human drivers receive and process information, which is then used to locate vehicles on the track and strategize how to beat the competition. The Deep Orange 12 student team is also designing a powertrain specifically around the requirements of autonomous racing.

“The extreme engineering behind motorsports has often been used as a testbed to push the boundaries of consumer vehicle technology,” says Robert Prucka, Deep Orange 12 faculty lead and Kulwicki Endowed Professor in Motorsports Engineering with the Robert H. Brooks Sports Science Institute and associate professor with the Clemson University Department of Automotive Engineering. “This is an incredible opportunity for students to not only work with advanced racing technologies but have a hand in driving solutions for one of the most pressing engineering challenges facing the mobility industry today.”

Millions of fans watch motorsports events every year, and an undeniable part of the appeal are the skills and personalities of the drivers themselves, according to Prucka. With more advanced sensors, software and connectivity, the results of Deep Orange 12 could produce additional driver safety and crash-prevention benefits for today’s racing series.

“Even a fraction of a second can make the difference between a near miss and a collision, especially at racing speeds,” says Prucka . “By making competitor information available to the racecar through connectivity, the technologies we are developing can provide advanced collision warning to drivers behind the wheel.”

By collaborating with industry leaders such as EY US, students gain unique hands-on experience and expertise that lead to successful careers after graduation. Over two years, students gain business acumen and hands-on experience in vehicle design, development, prototyping and production planning. Students develop comprehensive technical knowledge as well as valuable “soft skills” that are often overlooked in traditional engineering programs.

Deep Orange relies on a network of equipment, software, facilities and professionals to help students deliver their prototype vehicle within just two years. With EY US as primary sponsor, supporting partners include Energy Systems Network, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) and the Robert H. Brooks Sports Science Institute.

“Our goal with Deep Orange is to shape the next generation of engineering leaders with real-world projects that prepare them to develop solutions to tomorrow’s mobility challenges,” says Chris Paredis, BMW Endowed Chair in Automotive Systems Integration and Deep Orange Program Director. “A project as complex as engineering a high-performance racecar with state-of-the-art autonomous technology makes for a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience. Our students earn both the skills and confidence to innovate and improve the interconnected mobility systems of the future.”

Announced in late 2019 at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, the Indy Autonomous Challenge is a $1.5 million university prize competition organized by Energy Systems Network and IMS to win the world’s first head-to-head, high-speed autonomous race on October 23, 2021. IMS hosts the annual Indianapolis 500, the largest single-day sporting event in the world.

The competition has attracted university teams from around the world, all of which are developing their own driverless vehicle algorithms. After extensive simulation testing and validation, each team’s code will be used to control a vehicle for the race at IMS’s 2.5-mile oval track. The vehicle used by these race teams will be based on the prototype developed in the Deep Orange 12 program at CU-ICAR.

While engineering students drive each Deep Orange project, they benefit from Clemson’s world-class cabinet of cross-disciplinary researchers within the Department of Automotive Engineering. Students also utilize the University’s state-of-the-art automotive facilities and testing equipment for the project, operating out of the 9,000-square-foot AVX Mobility Systems Innovation Lab on the CU-ICAR campus.

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Deep Orange
Deep Orange is a flagship program of Clemson University’s two-year master’s program focused on systems integration in automotive engineering. The program provides students with experience in market analysis, concept exploration, vehicle design, prototyping and manufacturing while balancing costs and design targets in an aggressive timeline. The innovative vehicle prototype program encourages students to push the boundaries of conventional design and engineering.

Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research
The Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) is a 250-acre advanced-technology research campus where university, industry and government organizations collaborate. CU-ICAR offers master’s and Ph.D. programs in automotive engineering and is conducting leading-edge applied research in critical areas, such as advanced product-development strategies, sustainable mobility, intelligent manufacturing systems and advanced materials. CU-ICAR has industrial-scale laboratories and testing equipment in world-class facilities.