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Vladimir Vantsevich and Lee Moradi, two professors at Worchester Polytechnic Institute’s (WPI’s) Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, have established an Autonomous Vehicle Mobility Institute (AVMI) at WPI.
The institute aims to expand the university’s interdisciplinary research into autonomous vehicle technologies as well as to boost educational opportunities for students. AVMI will focus on developing technology for off-road autonomous vehicles that travel across rough terrains. This could mean anything from farmland to battlefields to other planets.
“Much of the current research into autonomous vehicles focuses on cars that travel on roads, but we focus on off-road vehicles, from small robotic vehicles to full-scale vehicles, both manned and unmanned, with as many as 8, 12, or 16 wheels that are driven by electric motors or mechanical drivetrain systems with controls,” Vantsevich said. “The technological challenge for these off-road vehicles is making them intelligent enough to sense and understand the terrain under the wheel to supply in real time the correct amount of power to each wheel and thus improve the vehicle’s terrain mobility, maneuverability, and energy efficiency. We believe that WPI is an excellent place to engage students, other faculty members, and industry partners in this work.”
Researchers at WPI already have a few ongoing projects having to do with autonomous vehicle technology. These projects include models to sift through large amounts of sensor data from autonomous systems and software that will enable groups of lunar robots to collaborate while exploring the moon.
“A significant portion of vehicles on and off roads are expected to be autonomous in the coming decades,” Wole Soboyejo, interim president of WPI, said. “WPI researchers across departments are already doing groundbreaking work in this field, and Vladimir and Lee will allow WPI to transform the scale of our innovations with their expertise and their ability to bring together collaborators with complementary expertise. This will lead to several new opportunities for our students and prepare them for leadership positions in a field that will define the cutting edge of transportation and space exploration.”
AVMI is funded by the USA Army, NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy and industry partners in both the U.S. and Western Europe.
“I’m very excited to join the faculty of WPI to continue working on autonomous off-road vehicles that could be used in agriculture, construction, the military, and especially planetary exploration,” Moradi said. “As humans continue to explore space, developing autonomous vehicles that can function on other planets under harsh conditions will be of the utmost importance.”
Vantsevich has experience in research and engineering on mechanical and intelligent mechatronic multi-physics systems with application to vehicle system modeling and simulation. Morado has spent over 18 years working in the industry after receiving his BS in engineering and his MS and Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of Alabama (UAB). Before joining WPI in early 2022, both Vantsevich and Moradi worked together as faculty members at UAB.