Research News

UB unveils latest autonomous vehicle

UB's second autonomous vehicle unveiled. .

The vehicle, a Lincoln MKZ outfitted with the latest tech, was on display outside Davis Hall for onlookers to check out. Photo: Cory Nealon

By CORY NEALON

Published September 25, 2019

“By leading the field of research on autonomous vehicles, our faculty are working toward a more sustainable and safer future for the many communities we serve.”
President Satish K. Tripathi

UB officials on Tuesday unveiled the university’s newest autonomous vehicle — a white Lincoln MKZ sedan outfitted with roof-mounted cameras, a trunkload of computer hardware and other gadgets that enable it to navigate specially designated North Campus roads and parking lots without human control.

The car joins UB’s Olli bus, a self-driving electric shuttle that debuted on campus last year, in UB’s growing portfolio of autonomous vehicles and transportation research centers.

In an event outside Davis Hall, President Satish K. Tripathi remarked how UB is leading a multidisciplinary effort to help ensure that autonomous vehicles are brought to the public in a responsible manner.  

“By leading the field of research on autonomous vehicles, our faculty are working toward a more sustainable and safer future for the many communities we serve,” Tripathi said.

Rajan Batta, interim dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, noted that UB computer scientists, transportation engineers and other faculty members — such as UB School of Law Dean Aviva Abramovosky, who is leading the New York State Bar Association’s task force on autonomous vehicles — are working together to study different facets of driverless vehicles.

Batta said UB is “uniquely positioned” to lead this work, which will benefit the public as well as UB students who are working on cutting-edge transportation and public policy issues.

The new autonomous Lincoln was made possible through contributions from UB, the National Science Foundation, Monro Muffler Brake Inc. and West Herr Auto Group.

Rod Grabowski, vice president for university advancement, thanked Monro and West Herr for their support, noting that such philanthropy is pushing UB toward the $650 million goal of its Boldly Buffalo fundraising campaign.

The contributions from Monro and West Herr that enabled the university to acquire this research tool were part of UB’s Boldly Buffalo campaign, which will raise $650 million in commitments to transform students, empower faculty teaching and research, and improve communities in Western New York and around the world.

Chunming Qiao, SUNY Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, is lead investigator of the Lincoln autonomous vehicle. Like Olli, the car is for research purposes only.

Qiao said UB will use the vehicle to conduct comprehensive testing of autonomous and connected vehicles to inform decisions regarding policy, safety, reliability and other next-generation transportation issues.

It builds upon UB’s growth as a transportation research hub, which received a boost in 2017 with a $4 million gift from alumnus Stephen Still to establish the Stephen Still Institute for Sustainable Transportation and Logistics.

The institute unites UB’s engineering and management schools to address the growing new field of transportation, logistics and supply-chain management.