The 3M Company has announced a US$1.6m investment in the Texas A&M University System’s evolving RELLIS Campus, with the funding to be used to build a simulated rain range to support connected and automated vehicle (CAV) research.
The new finance marks Texas A&M University’s first major industry partnership at the RELLIS Campus, and will help fund the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s (TTI) CAV research program, as well as to support related graduate assistantships and faculty research.
Envisioned to be 1,000ft (305m) long and 50ft (15.3m) wide, the simulated rain range will be used to test interactions between vehicle sensors and highway infrastructure under wet conditions for vehicles traveling at speeds of up to 60mph (100km/h). The sensors are essential to emerging technologies that enable self-driving cars, and to the systems that enable those cars to connect and communicate with roadway signs, signals and lane markings in vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) networks.
Connected and automated transportation technologies offer great promise for safe and efficient mobility, but central to that potential is that vehicles and infrastructure can communicate and function reliably under all conditions, including inclement weather.
As well as the rain test track hardware, 3M’s investment will also pay for other research equipment and the support of graduate students involved in the program. The funding will support two doctoral-level engineering students for three years, as the company recognizes Texas A&M as an excellent academic institution from which to recruit technical employees for its own R&D enterprises.
3M’s new investment builds upon a decades-long partnership with TTI and follows last year’s announcement of a five-year agreement to co-develop roadway signage and pavement marking technologies that can help to communicate safety information to automated driving systems as well as human drivers. Built at a former US Air Force Base, Texas A&M’s RELLIS Campus includes test beds and proving grounds that focus primarily on robotics, self-driving and connected vehicles, and advanced manufacturing, as well as smart power grids and water systems.
“With 80 years of experience in transportation safety, this investment is just the latest example of our commitment that applies science to improve lives around the world,” said Bob Anderson, 3M’s vice president of R&D for its safety and graphics business group.
“We see connected and automated vehicle technologies reshaping transportation and mobility, and we are pleased to extend our collaboration with TTI to advance the capabilities of infrastructure to help create the roadways of the future.”
TTI agency director Greg Winfree commented, “No testing facility anywhere can match the potential of the RELLIS Campus as we work to build systems that enable safe and reliable communication between cars and our roadways. And TTI is both proud and grateful to have 3M as a valued partner in that mission.”
Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp added, “3M’s investment will substantially enhance and expand our research capabilities and provide more opportunities for education and training. It is also an exciting example of how we can work with private industry to address the most challenging transportation issues of today and tomorrow.”