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Ford grant funds autonomous vehicles research at Detroit Mercy

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October 24, 2017

The need for cameras on vehicles continues to skyrocket with the ongoing research and development of autonomous vehicles and a new law requiring all cars have backup cameras beginning in 2018.

As this need rises, so does the need to keep those cameras clear of rain, snow, ice, mud, dirt and other debris.
University of Detroit Mercy aims to advance the research of air and fluid cleaning jets for automotive cameras thanks to a $60,000 grant from Ford Motor Company.

“This is right up our alley,” Detroit Mercy Professor of Mechanical Engineering Mark Schumack said. “Autonomous vehicles is an area Ford is really starting to emphasize in its product lines and future development projects. It’s state-of-the-art stuff, so it keeps us connected with what’s going on in industry.

“This also allows us to connect with Ford and have a relationship with industry where we can apply a lot of the theory I talk about in class,” Schumack added.

To design cleaning systems, engineers must understand how the airflow over the camera interacts with the fluid jets between the nozzle exit and surface, and details of the fluid flow as it spreads over the surface and removes debris in its path.

“This project aims to analyze the physics behind the interacting fluid flows above and across the lens covering. This provides engineers with a reliable tool for predicting behavior of various designs,” Schumack said.

The number of cameras on an autonomous vehicle can vary, as can the positioning of the cameras, which means the fluid jets have to function in a variety of ways.

“The cameras are basically the eyes for the vehicle,” Schumack said. “Each lens covers a different location, so the air flow that would interact with any fluid stream is going to be different. It’s going to be different in the front than it is in the back, so there might be a different nozzle position and different direction they have to orient the fluid onto the lens covers.”

Schumack said Detroit Mercy will develop both an analytical model (paper and pencil) and a computer model.

“It will provide those two models just to enable engineers to make better decisions about where to locate the fluid jets,” Schumack said. “The idea is that it shortens their design time because they don’t have to do much prototype testing.”

— By Dave Pemberton. Follow Detroit Mercy on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Have a story idea? Let us know by submitting your idea.

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