We know autonomous vehicles will transform the way people travel, especially in heavily populated urban centers where self-driving technology is expected to make its greatest impact. But what about in rural areas, where most Mississippians live?
Instead of following the crowd, Mississippi State University is building on its legacy as an automotive innovator by developing a self-driving vehicle for the roads less traveled. MSU’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems is working with an international team to produce the world’s first all-electric, autonomous SUV designed for on- and off-road driving.
Industry insiders will understand why it’s called the Halo Project.
“When a car company produces a high-end vehicle that showcases all their top technologies and engineering prowess, it’s referred to as a halo car,” says Clay Walden, executive director of MSU’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems and Halo Project lead. “The halo car highlights MSU’s advanced engineering capabilities and demonstrates how research partnerships are helping us drive new technologies to the forefront.”
In the realm of automotive engineering, Mississippi State is known for creating innovative solutions that meet real-world needs. In addition to bringing autonomous technology to rural populations, MSU researchers envision a range of uses for the self-driving SUV, including military applications, search-and-rescue missions, and access to independent automotive transportation for people with disabilities.
The Halo Project also demonstrates the strength and depth of MSU’s research partnerships. The team comprises domestic and foreign companies that have successfully partnered with MSU on previous projects and serve a global customer base. With more than 20 years of experience in industrial engagement, Walden has unique insights into the power of industry partnerships and their role in driving automotive breakthroughs.
As the technology integrator for the Halo Project, MSU is responsible for assembling motors, batteries and other components into the final working vehicle. MSU engineers also are in charge of developing software to operate the vehicle and its autonomous systems.
The SUV features four lightweight electric motors manufactured by YASA that power each wheel individually, providing more than 10,000 Nm of torque. The torque is transferred to the wheels through custom-designed transmissions manufactured by Hewland Engineering. Both companies are based in the United Kingdom. The motors are coupled with high-power inverters made by Rinehart Motion Systems of Oregon.
The vehicle’s next-generation lithium ion batteries are supplied by Michigan-based battery producer A123. The batteries provide 50 percent more energy capacity than previous generation lithium ion batteries, allowing the vehicle to travel an estimated 230 miles on a single charge.
A state-of-the-art sensor package enables the vehicle to navigate on roads that lack clearly marked edges and in off-road areas. Four LiDAR sensors create detailed 3D maps of the vehicle’s surroundings, and stereo cameras help it recognize and classify objects. Radar allows the vehicle to “see” better in rain and snow and identify oncoming terrain. Sensor data is fed into an onboard supercomputer supplied by Nvidia Corporation of California.