Auburn University partners with Ford in research project to boost highway safety

AUBURN – A research project by Auburn University and Ford Motor Company shows that global positioning system satellites that can “talk” to cars could help prevent serious accidents.

The researchers have found potential for a GPS satellite to act as an early warning system that detects when a vehicle is about to lose control and communicate with the vehicle’s stability control systems and other safety features to prevent a rollover or other serious accident.

The research findings were presented recently at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ International Conference on Systems, Man and Cybernetics in San Antonio, Texas.

“A satellite orbiting the earth could someday prevent an auto accident,” said Gerhard Schmidt, Ford’s chief technical officer and vice president of research and advanced engineering. “We applaud the Auburn team for these advancements and look forward to working together on the next phase of this research, including developing prototype vehicles.”

The project is part of Ford Motor Company’s $4 million investment in university research programs in 2009, including 16 safety projects.

Auburn’s GPS and Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory, directed by mechanical engineering faculty member David Bevly, received a three-year, $120,000 grant from Ford in 2008 as part of the company’s University Research Program.

The research team is investigating the use of combining GPS and inertial measurement units data to provide precise information on a vehicle’s motion. The data could be used to improve performance of a vehicle’s electronic stability control system, a computerized technology that improves the safety of a vehicle’s stability by detecting and minimizing skids.

“Stability control is one of the most important safety technologies of this decade,” said Jeff Rupp, manager, Ford Active Safety Systems Engineering. “Ford is committed to safety leadership, and research partnerships like our work with Auburn help us achieve success.”

The project’s breakthroughs include developing algorithms combining data from sensors in Ford vehicles with data from GPS receivers. This coordination of data has led to predictive models that can calculate a vehicle’s roll angle, sideslip and velocities under various driving conditions.

(Contributed by Sara Borchik.)

Contact: David Bevly, (334) 844-3446 (, or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (