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Auburn debuts sophisticated new autonomous vehicle research facility

Published: February 16, 2021
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Auburn University has opened the doors to a sophisticated new autonomous vehicle research facility at Auburn’s National Center for Asphalt Technology, or NCAT, test track—one of the few facilities of its kind in the nation attached to a test track.

The addition will aid researchers in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering’s GPS and Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory, or GAVLAB, whose work is frequently conducted outdoors.

The facility provides a garage with multiple bays and lifts for commercial trucks and passenger vehicles, office space for researchers, a conference room and an observation area overlooking NCAT’s 1.7-mile oval test track.

“The fact that we have our own test track where we can run autonomous vehicles and autonomous testing attached to this facility I think is an unbelievably unique asset,” said David Bevly, the Bill and Lana McNair Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering and co-director of the GAVLAB along with assistant research professor Scott Martin. 

Since Bevly joined the Auburn engineering faculty in 2001, the GAVLAB has built a strong reputation in autonomous vehicle navigation and developed a broad sponsored research portfolio, with projects ranging from the Department of Defense and the Federal Highway Administration to many private industry partners.

With various sponsors visiting each month, the facility’s planned observation area gives the GAVLAB team a high-quality space to demonstrate its research. Bevly’s group has also conducted demonstrations for legislators and the Alabama Department of Transportation.

“It’s a great facility for us as a team, but also allows us to showcase our work,” Bevly said.

With a growing research thrust in transportation engineering, the autonomous research facility also demonstrates Auburn’s commitment to supporting these research initiatives.

“Auburn is a major player in transportation engineering research in the nation,” said Steve Taylor, engineering’s associate dean for research. “The GAVLAB and our other transportation engineering researchers have brought in nearly $50 million in sponsored research awards over the past three years. This new facility is an exciting development for Auburn, and there will be much more to come.”


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