The U of M’s proximity to the U.S. auto industry’s Big Three and numerous suppliers — as well as our brain trust of expert researchers and outstanding students — has made us a powerhouse in automotive research for many years. So it was natural that U of M won the competition to create a collaborative center of excellence in automotive research in 1994, the birth year of the Automotive Research Center (ARC).
The genesis of the ARC was also a result of geographical serendipity: U of M is less than 50 miles from then the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), which is located at the Detroit Arsenal in Warren. In 2019, TARDEC was renamed the Ground Vehicle System Center (GVSC). Technical leaders, including Mr. Alexander Farkas (1992 – 1995, NAC Director) and Dr. Walter Bryzik (Chief Scientist, 1991 – 2008), together with Dr. Panos Papalambros, then‐Chair of the Mechanical Engineering department at U of M, spearheaded the creation of a research facility that would support the Army’s automotive research efforts.
In 1993, a call for proposals was issued by the National Automotive Center (NAC) at the U.S. Army TARDEC, which had been chartered to foster research between government, industry and academia. U of M was invited to participate. Partner schools Wayne State University, University of Iowa, University of Wisconsin, Madison and Howard University were engaged under the leadership of U of M, and a proposal from all five partners for an Automotive Research Center was submitted.
The proposal was successful, and the ARC was formed in 1994. Five research areas comprised the framework of multidisciplinary, multi‐university collaboration that persists to this day, and serves as a model for other Centers of Excellence.
Since the U. S. Army does not itself produce vehicles, but rather buys them from industry suppliers, the research facilitated by the U. S. Army is also beneficial to the rest of society. Together, the dual‐use technologies developed by ARC students and faculty helped revolutionize the automotive industry by make automobiles more affordable, more performant, cleaner, safer and more fuel efficient.
The ARC has evolved over the years, remaining at the leading edge of the large changes in the transportation industry and research. Over the past year under the leadership of Dr. Bogdan Epureanu (ARC Director) and Dr. David Gorsich (GVSC Chief Scientist), the ARC has been transformed into a leading force in the development of the next generation of autonomous vehicles for both military and commercial applications.
The success of the ARC is due not only to strong government‐academia partnership, but also to a third partner in the form of industry advisory members, or quad members, to every ARC project. The industry quad members have helped push the cutting edge of automotive research ever forward, and are committed to ensuring that industry benefits from this government investment with direct technology transfer. This practice has evolved into many more leveraging projects between ARC researchers and industry to better facilitate the transfer of knowledge.