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Army turns to auto racing for ground vehicle edge

Army turns to auto racing for ground vehicle edge

Indy Autonomous Challenge

Indy Autonomous Challenge Pictures

Novi, Michigan — The auto racing industry and the Army have some things in common. Our mission is to win, our pursuit of cutting-edge technology is never-ending, and our skilled workforce is essential to our success. As such, some of the Army’s ground vehicle community are exploring what they can learn from the racing community.

Pratt Miller CEO Matt Carroll said at the Ground Vehicle Systems Engineering and Technology Symposium hosted by the Michigan chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association that the collaboration has precedent.

His company started in 1989 as an auto racing venture. Then, in 2008, the Army’s predecessor, the Combat Capability Development Command’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC) approached Pratt his mirror. In Iraq and Afghanistan, troops were wounded and killed by improvised explosive devices. The Army wanted to know if the company would help.

“They said, ‘Why the hell are these cars hitting the wall and these cars and drivers walking away?'” he said.

The company applied what it learned at the track each weekend to consider how the Army could modify its vehicles to better protect its troops from blasts, he said.

GVSC Chief Scientist David Gorsich says the racing and off-road industries are natural places for the Army to look for ideas and solutions to survive roadside blasts.

“I was very keen to come up with these technologies and understand the people in the automotive industry who were colliding,” he said. .

The Army considered ways to redesign the crew compartment and armor plates based on feedback from the auto racing industry.

This led us to think about how to redesign the vehicle to make the components more modular and easier to replace on the vehicle to “increase the level of readiness and speed up maintenance”.

“One of the things we looked at is how do you replace the engine really fast. I will make it possible,” he said.

But engagement and cooperation with the industry has waned, he said. It has seen a resurgence in recent years with the growth of off-road and extreme racing directly related to the Army’s modernization efforts.

“We have to go off-road, we have to go fast, we have to deal with all kinds of obstacles and challenges,” he said.

That is why we take part in racing and off-road events to explore how hobbyists and professional teams alike solve the challenges of driving vehicles, especially self-driving cars, on extreme terrain at high speeds. .

“We’re working with them to try to understand how to develop autonomous systems and how to test them, basically trying to share ideas and co-invest in some of the gaps and issues. Yes,” added Gorsic.

One example of GVSC’s investment is Clemson’s sponsorship of the Deep Orange 13 program. It evolved out of GVSC’s collaboration with Deep Orange 12, a project to develop vehicles for the Indy Autonomous Challenge.

To that challenge, master’s degree students at Clemson’s International Center for Automotive Research worked with industry partners to develop a suite of sensors and hardware to replace IndyCar drivers.

“This vehicle was ultimately designed and engineered at Clemson, then replicated 10 times and delivered to teams around the world,” said Rob Prukka, professor of automotive engineering at Clemson.

These teams used the original platform and made their own modifications to the system and algorithms, he said.

The car debuted at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October 2021 and performed a solo lap to prove the technology. In January they passed each other at 160 mph at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“Those are actually record-breaking passes,” Plucka said. “These are the fastest self-driving cars that have ever passed each other.” There were also plenty of spins and crashes as the team was still experimenting with new technology.

“What the U.S. Army is working on, obviously, is getting these self-driving cars up to speed,” he said. “So we think there’s a lot of learning from programs like the Indy Autonomous Challenge that can help speed up the vehicles they’re working on.”

GVSC is also learning lessons from Deep Orange 12, Gorsich said. “The latest is just learning about platform latency.”

Latency is one of the most important aspects of the autonomy challenge, he said. The longer the time from the sensor or controller input to the vehicle’s response (braking, turning, accelerating), the slower and safer the vehicle can travel.

“The off-road issue is a little more complicated, but it’s about speed,” he said. “It’s not just about the autonomous stack, it’s about all electronic control, tracking latency from smaller to higher levels of control.”

Students working on the Indy Autonomous Challenge made “really valuable” discoveries about latency and speed, Gorsich said.

“Maybe they don’t have all the constraints that we have,” he said. and I’m trying to figure out a little bit more complicated about how to do certain things.”

Another challenge for autonomous driving technology is ensuring that the vehicle constantly evaluates and adapts to the terrain and the physics of the vehicle itself.

“Automated driving solutions need to learn by actually driving, like a race car driver,” he said. “So race car drivers are learning how friction changes as the wheels heat up, rather than circling the track with a best-of-breed mathematical algorithm.”

GVSC works with the racing and academic communities to teach vehicles how to learn the limits of their mobility and make certain adjustments, he said.

“These are new things we learned from on-road, but they are also off-road problems,” he continued. “If you really want to go off-road, you have to skid steer and get the wheels out and slide the back end so you can turn faster. ”

While the racing industry may have certain technologies that can inform or migrate to military vehicles, racing continues to innovate, such as model-based systems engineering and virtual prototyping tools. method is likely to be the most useful for the Army. now.

“Digital engineering and open systems architecture are game-changing across the board. I am in charge of four platforms.

Digital engineering “changes a lot in the Army,” he said. “It also changes the way the industry conducts business practices to work with us.”

A key part of the digital approach, he said, is bringing soldiers in to experiment with simulations and virtual prototypes to refine designs before spending money on building physical prototypes.

“This helps us inform our requirements, what are the possible technologies,” he said. “And that means that when we communicate our requirements to the industry, we have a higher level of confidence that our requirements are viable, and the industry believes our requirements are simply ongoing. It means having a higher level of confidence that nothing will change.”

The Army is trying to learn as much as it can from the race, but there are practical limits, he said. Racing He said the biggest barrier to bringing innovation to Army vehicles is scale.

“Everything has to translate into thousands of runs, not only in terms of performance, but also in terms of production. [and] Our ability to translate potential into actual combat power,” McEnery said.

So while lacing technology exists and may in theory solve the Army’s needs, it may be too expensive to mass produce. said.
“Analysis takes skill. How do we learn lessons related to what we’re doing now?” he added.

The second challenge is visible in the pits. Thousands of engineers, technicians and analysts are glued to their computer screens, monitoring massive amounts of real-time vehicle data and making constant adjustments during the race.

“Increasingly, our combat systems, our weapon systems, are more software-defined functions than hardware-defined functions,” he said. “We compete with the commercial industry for high-end talent that can help us figure out how to develop these software features within our systems.”

There are also operational challenges to the manpower equation when the Army deploys highly technical software-defined systems, he said. “We know from history that whenever we insert a new system of great complexity into a hierarchical organization, it can cause a lot of chaos, and there are organizational challenges to being able to deal with it.” he added.

“Soldiers need to have equipment that is simple and reliable,” says McEnery. “Having enlisted in the Army, he has no time to develop personal expertise that may be only a few years old. We expect them to fight for survival with new technology. I have.”

At the same time, he added, the Army needs to change how it recruits, recruits and trains to keep up with technological innovations.

“The mechanics we introduce into our organization require new skill sets,” he said. “We need new capabilities to predict the types of parts we need, so we don’t have a cumbersome and targeted supply chain.”

The Army needs to adapt its personnel policy to recruit the right personnel, he said. The service must find a way to attract tech-savvy college graduates who believe they have the potential to earn more money and more career satisfaction in positions in the industry.

“These all sound like negatives, but they’re all things the War Department is working on,” he said. We are promoting many ways to change the way we maintain.

“Those things are changing,” he said. “But it’s a slow process.”

topic: Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Army News, Combat Vehicles

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