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University of Michigan Plans to Test 3-D Printed, Autonomous ‘Carts’

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July 10, 2015—The University of Michigan plans to test low-speed, 3-D printed, driverless “carts” within the year, according to a story by the Detroit News.

On Thursday, the university was given a custom 3-D printed “SmartCart” from Local Motors, a company that created the world’s first 3-D printed car, the Strati, and printed it live at the 2014 SEMA Show

The university plans on studying three different types of vehicles at its Mcity test site that is operated by the Mobility Transformation Center public/private partnership. Mcity will host a grand opening event July 20.

If the testing goes well, the university will launch the driverless cars on its North Campus where they could be used as a driverless transit system that transports students and staff. The university also plans to develop an app that would allow users to request rides.

“Think Uber, but with low-speed, autonomous cars,” said Edwin Olson, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science who leads the project, according to Michael Martinez. “The goal of SmartCarts is for us to begin understanding the challenges of a transportation-on-demand system built around autonomous cars.”

The new vehicle’s body is printed out of Lego brick plastic that’s reinforced with fiber and has a powertrain from a traditional golf cart. Local Motors can print a new component within a few hours if the university wants to make changes to the vehicle.

The carts will be one of a number of tests that take place daily at Mcity, according to Jim Sayer, a research scientist at the university’s Transportation Research Institute.

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