Tempe Body Shop Discusses UMich’s Test on 3D Printed Autonomous Cars
It seems like something straight out of a science fiction film: a car that transports its passengers around town without the need for any drivers or licenses, all operated by a computer device located somewhere in the vehicle. Well, it seems that futuristic dream is not too far off from actually occurring. In the last few years, Google has publicly been testing its driverless cars throughout the country to much fanfare and, so far, they have been proven to be safer than relying on a human driver. Even though our business centers around collision repair, our Tempe body shop actually looks forward to watching these technological advances happen in the vehicle industry and we get excited at these new announcements.
That is why we are quite excited to hear about more efforts to make autonomous cars a real option, including expanding the services these cars provide. Our Tempe body shop recently learned that in July, the University of Michigan announced plans to bring autonomous cars to at least one of their campuses for student use in a joint effort with Local Motors, a Phoenix-based automotive firm. Surprisingly, this move is bringing another technological advancement to the project, 3D printing.
Labeled the SmartCart, this autonomous vehicle will also be a 3D printed vehicle. The goal of the project is to create small carts that can transport students across a university campus safely without relying on a human driver to conduct this transportation. For now at least, it seems like the future of the SmartCart is to also keep them driving in smaller environments where the chances of accidents and injury are relatively low, which is part of the reason they are being tested at a university. By determining how the carts are able to operate on a university campus, like the University of Michigan’s North Campus, the project’s engineers will also be able to determine how they can eventually roll out similar carts to amusement parks, airports, and senior centers across the country.
One of the parts that makes this interesting to our Tempe body shop is the 3D printing technique being used to create the carts. While 3D printing is still an expensive endeavor, the costs can be much lower than creating a fleet of steel or fiberglass vehicles during the testing stages. One of the advantages pointed out by engineers is that during the testing, if they find additional components are needed or desired for the SmartCart, the wait time is much shorter. Parts can be easily designed, printed, and installed at their facility within a matter of days than waiting weeks or months through more traditional methods. This also means that the initial testing phases may be much shorter and that the SmartCarts will roll out onto campus streets in the near future.
However, the jury is still out as to when similar autonomous vehicles will become available on a larger scale to the public. For now, our Tempe body shop mechanics and customers will have to wait to see these vehicles flitting across city streets.