Clemson’s Deep Orange 12 team develops self-driving race car

Clemson University is taking autonomous vehicles to the races with Deep Orange 12, a 40-student project that developed a self-driving race car that can go as fast as 180 mph.

The prototype car combines innovative technology like advanced perception systems that allow the car to observe its surroundings and react fast enough to maintain car safety when the car is at high speeds, according to a release from Clemson.

Deep Orange, a Clemson program now in its 13th year, requires a team of Clemson automotive engineering graduate students to develop a prototype in response to a specific challenge. This year’s challenge? Designing a self-driving vehicle capable of operating at high speeds.

“Here at Clemson, our expertise is engineering prototype cars with students. It was a natural fit for us to take this on,” said Robert Prucka, Deep Orange 12 faculty lead and an associate professor of motorsports engineering at Clemson.

Clemson’s prototype can reportedly cover the length of a football field in a little over a second.

A unique part of this Deep Orange project, Prucka said, was the ability to reproduce the vehicle in a cost-effective and timely manner.

“It’s an incredibly ambitious challenge, not just in the technology itself but with the short timeline, series production, disparate systems, and of course, staying safe during COVID,” he said. “We ended up far exceeding our scope just due to the unprecedented nature of the project, of the grand challenge. We simply couldn’t know everything that would be required from the start.”

The project worked with over 38 suppliers and organizations over 12 months to find and create the necessary engineering solutions for it.

The center of the Deep Orange program is student involvement.

“We say it all the time, but the ideal outcome of Deep Orange is highly-capable students,” professor Chris Paredis, BMW Endowed Chair in systems integration at Clemson, said. “This was an incredibly challenging project, but if our experience tells us anything, it’s that these learning experiences have a tremendous impact on their success after they leave Clemson.”

According to Clemson, over 95% of the graduate students who left Deep Orange 12 have already found jobs in the manufacturing industry or at tech companies.

“It’s been a huge learning curve, a lot of changes and how we’ve adapted and made things possible, it’s quite a feat that the entire team has pulled together. Autonomy is in the budding stages, and as students we are learning and applying things, so there’s s a lot of experimentation where we continuously try things and find ways to do it. That’s where engineering shines,” said Manikanda Balaji Venkatesan, a member of Deep Orange 12 and recent Clemson graduate. “I’m elated. The fact that we were able to pull this off and exceed what we wanted to do, is just amazing.”

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