Purdue to launch autonomous vehicle innovation center

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Purdue University is leading a new innovation hub that'll focus on autonomous vehicles and issues surrounding the growing technology.

The Innovation Hub for Connected and Autonomous Transportation Technologies will be part of the university's Discovery Park, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported. The 40-acre (16.2-hectare) complex is used by the school's STEM undergraduate students, graduate-level researchers and faculty.

Students and faculty studying science, technology, engineering and math will research topics such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and public policy related to autonomous transportation.

A significant portion of the research will be done in partnership with private-sector companies and government agencies, including the Indiana Department of Transportation. The research will focus on commercial uses for autonomous vehicles, but will consider some issues related to passenger vehicles.

Convincing the public of the benefits of autonomous technology will take many small steps to see significant results, said Darcy Bullock, a civil engineering professor at Purdue.

Technology advancements leading to driverless cars "will happen very rapidly, possibly in the next year or two," Bullock said. "The role of the university is to evaluate those early developments."

A 2017 survey by the American Automobile Association found only 10 percent of participants said they'd feel safer in a self-driving vehicle. Purdue officials said doubts about autonomous technology are part of why research is essential.

"There's use for this in the space, defense, agricultural sectors," said David McKinnis, a special adviser for Purdue's Office of Corporate and Global Partnerships. "All have major programs that can connect with autonomous vehicle research."

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. ranks the state second in the U.S. for gross domestic product generated from the automotive industry. Michigan holds the top spot.

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Information from: Indianapolis Business Journal, http://www.ibj.com