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Jan. 11, 2017

Driver's seat

Jan. 11, 2017

I’ve done a fair amount of embarrassing things in my life. I’ve fallen down in public multiple times, said the wrong things, had wardrobe malfunctions, walked into the wrong locker room and just plain looked the fool. (Side note, my daughter texted yesterday to tell me she takes after me – she slipped on the subway and ended up in someone’s lap.) Anyway, I’ve been embarrassing myself for years and will certainly continue to do so.

One of my earliest memories of being embarrassed happened at Cedar Point Amusement Park. I was finally tall enough to “drive” my own car around the little speedway track. You know the kind – everyone is on a track that pushes the car through but riders pretend that they’re actually driving.

After the ride was over, I climbed out of my car onto the platform – and realized I had climbed out on the wrong side. Instead of being on the side where everyone else was, I was stranded on some middle island on the other side of the roadway. They had to stop all the cars and a worker had to come get me. I couldn’t even “drive “an autonomous car without making a public spectacle of myself.

As I stood there red-faced, I couldn’t have dreamed that autonomous cars would actually become a real thing and not just an amusement park ride. Of course, Spartan engineers are on the leading edge of the research that’s making them a reality. This week, they’re demonstrating their innovation as part of the 2017 North American International Auto Show festivities in Detroit. The technology is pretty amazing.

Check out the MSUToday FEATURE: Smarter. Safer. More Connected, to learn more about how Spartans are helping map the future for autonomous and connected vehicles.

John Verboncoeur, associate dean for research in the College of Engineering, says that real success for their research goes beyond cars. “The technologies and ideas being developed at MSU – whether tied to the next generation of cars or advances in cybersecurity – are bigger than one industry,” he says. “Spartan innovations in robotics, sensors and actuators, connectivity and software will transform your life in more than just your vehicle, but also in the kitchen and on the farm.”

Read his FACULTY VOICE: The future of automotive innovation, to learn more about his thoughts on the topic.

One of the great things about being an MSU student is having the opportunity to work with faculty on cutting-edge projects. Student researchers are working right alongside top-notch faculty in the lab and at the auto show. Check out the STUDENT VIEW: Driven to succeed, to learn about the student involvement, including MSU’s Formula SAE Racing Team.

I’ve driven a lot of cars since that ill-fated Cedar Point trip. I’m happy to report I never again ended up stranded on some center island in need of rescue. Cars have been a big part of my life. I’ve driven many different cars over many, many miles of roadway. I’ve relied on modern technology and research to keep those cars working safely and getting me to my destinations. The general idea of autonomous cars is a little freaky to me, but I trust that Spartans will have it all figured out. I know that whatever the future holds, Spartans will be in the driver’s seat. Spartans Will.

Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday
twitter bird@LMulcrone

Photo by Kurt Stepntiz


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