Getting around campus just got a little more high-tech.
Four universities have been chosen to participate in a pilot program to test new, all-electric micro cars on campus. Each car is equipped with sensors that will feed researchers data on how they're used.
This summer, the University of Pittsburgh, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Washington and Colorado State University will each receive four Innova Dash University Electric Vehicles (UEVs, also known as urban electric vehicles), specially equipped with sensors and cameras that measure how the vehicles are used.
The project is being spearheaded by Internet2 and Innova, whose leaders hope data gathered by the vehicles will feed environmental and transportation research projects at campuses across the country in the years to come.
“We truly hope that this new way of transportation on campus can be not only useful, but rich with data that we can share and learn from," said Roman Kuropas, Innova's CEO.
The vehicles will be constantly connected to their campus's networks, like a computer on wheels, and will feed real-time information to the cloud from built-in instruments, including three GoPro cameras. These sensors will track the vehicle's surroundings, how and where they're being driven and even the driver's heart rate and temperature, all of which is used to generate a driver's wellness score.
"There are very few opportunities like this, where you can do such localized instrumentation collectively across these sites," said Shelton Waggener, senior vice president of Internet2. "When you collect data like that, you can improve the world."
Using a mobile app, students and faculty will be able to know at a glance if a vehicle is available for use or where it is scheduled to be dropped off nearest to them.
University spokesmen said they are excited about the potential of these micro cars for sustainability and transportation research.
"These new vehicles will really provide a great platform for us to do a lot of exciting research about transportation and optimization of the UEV charging system," said Yinhai Wang, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington. "This is data that could power some interesting projects."