The University at Buffalo’s Driving Simulator, located in Furnas Hall on North Campus (provided by UB).

The drive toward driverless cars will include potentially pivotal research on the University at Buffalo’s North Campus.

The university has received a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to create a new research facility for self-driving and connected cars. UB is contributing an additional $500,000 in funds for the project, which will sync the university’s existing driving, traffic and wireless networking simulators to a specially-equipped vehicle, as well as to sensors and other instruments that will be installed along a mile of North Campus roads.

The simulators will create virtual yet realistic traffic scenarios that can be used to test connected and self-driving car technology. For example, the simulators can mimic how people respond to safety messages in their connected cars to rush-hour traffic including both human-driven cars and self-driving cars.

Instruments installed on the road will communicate with the connected car and provide real-time data to help researchers improve the simulators, algorithms and other back-end infrastructure needed to safely operate self-driving cars and improve connected vehicle technology.

“Traditionally, driving simulators and road testing facilities have operated independently of each other” said Chunming Qiao, professor and chairman of UB’s department of computer science and engineering, who is lead researcher on the project. “With iCAVE2, we are bridging that gap and creating a space where academia, information technology companies, automakers and other industries can evaluate and validate their products.”

UB has dubbed the research platform iCAVE2, short for Instrument for Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Evaluation and Experimentation. The university is partnering with Carnegie Mellon University, Cisco Systems and Southwest Research Institute.

This past June, Southwest Research Institute, a Texas company, brought a 2006 Ford Explorer equipped with $60,000 in computer hardware to the UB campus to demonstrate the latest driverless car technology.

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