Posted April 21, 2006 Atlanta
Research News & Publications Office
Contact John Toon
New U.S. automaker to build world's first 'purpose-built' law enforcement vehicle
Officials from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Carbon Motors Corporation - a new U.S. automaker that has announced plans to locate in Georgia - have taken the first step toward a collaboration that would develop the world's first vehicle built expressly for law enforcement agencies.
The company, which will market its innovative 'purpose-built' vehicle directly to customers, also plans to revolutionize U.S. automobile manufacturing as a lean and integrated organization. In March, the firm announced plans to locate its headquarters, research and development center, direct sales center, customer service, and mid-volume production and logistics operations in the metropolitan Atlanta area. On April 19th, officials from Georgia Tech and Carbon Motors signed a memorandum of understanding setting out their intent to establish research, education and financial arrangements.
"In this era of enhanced homeland security concerns, law enforcement first responders require the most appropriate specialized equipment delivered to them in the most efficient way possible so our women and men in uniform can patrol our communities in a more effective and safe manner," said William Santana Li, chairman and CEO of Carbon Motors. "With more than 200 law enforcement agencies nationwide, we have developed a list of 74 critical criteria that law enforcement vehicles need to meet. This vehicle will be different in almost every way to truly meet the needs and desires of law enforcement."
To make that vision a reality, Carbon Motors plans to take advantage of Georgia Tech's expertise in a broad range of areas. Initially, the company's designers and engineers plan to tap Georgia Tech's expertise in the ergonomic design of aircraft cockpits and the integration of highly complex electronic and electrical systems.
"Police vehicles today have a complex set of systems that need to be ergonomically configured to ensure proper flow of information to officers, especially when they are in pursuit or in stressful situations," said Li. "What we essentially need is comparable to the cockpit of a helicopter - which Georgia Tech has experience in designing. That is expertise not normally found in the automotive industry."
Beyond the human factors interface expertise, the company also intends to take advantage of Georgia Tech experience with integrating complex electronic systems - expertise also developed in decades of work done for military agencies.
"The amount of electronic and electrical equipment that will be in this vehicle is an order of magnitude beyond what you'd find in any existing automobile," Li noted. "This becomes not only a systems integration issue, but also a testing and validation concern involving electromagnetic interference and compatibility issues under a variety of environmental conditions."
The Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), which recently developed the Ultra-Armored Patrol concept vehicle for the U.S. military, plans to work with Carbon Motors on those key tasks.
"Large scale systems engineering is an area where GTRI has a proven track record of success," said Stephen E. Cross, director of GTRI and a vice president at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "We recently designed and built a concept military fighting vehicle to keep soldiers safer on the battlefield. We look forward to working with Carbon Motors to develop new vehicles that will make first responders safer on the streets."
Beyond human factors and systems integration, the company is also exploring Georgia Tech's expertise in other areas, including materials selection, logistics, information technology, manufacturing product life cycle management, sensor technology, aerodynamics, decision making algorithms and process engineering.
"This project is a prime example of how forward-thinking companies like Carbon Motors can collaborate with Georgia Tech to bring innovative products to the market and to transform a vital sector of the U.S. economy," said Wayne Hodges, vice provost in the Georgia Tech Office of Economic Development and Technology Ventures. "We look forward to working with the company to both develop this new vehicle and to change the way that automobiles are designed, produced and sold."
For Georgia Tech, the collaboration will not only provide an opportunity to impact industry and help create jobs in Georgia, but it will also give students an opportunity to work on real-world projects, Hodges noted. That experience will equip those students to not only support Carbon Motors, but also to bring a new business model to the U.S. automotive industry, he added.
The collaboration is an example of how Georgia's investment in higher education can have an economic development payoff, noted Craig Lesser, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
"One of Georgia's strengths is its research capabilities and the involvement of our universities in economic development," Lesser said. "Georgia Tech is truly a world-class university, and we are pleased that Carbon Motors will develop the kind of relationship that will benefit both organizations."
Based on two years of market research, Carbon Motors identified what law enforcement agencies needed in a vehicle built expressly for their use. Current police vehicles are based on retail passenger vehicles that are modified by a highly-fragmented set of local suppliers with little standardization or integration.
Among the improvements will be significantly enhanced total vehicle performance, improved fuel economy, enhanced safety and a reduction in total costs.
Carbon Motors is working with the state of Georgia, the Metropolitan Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Power Company, local governments and developers to determine the best location for a rail-linked 100-acre site to become the 'Carbon Campus' housing the new company.
About Carbon Motors: Carbon Motors Corporation is a new U.S. automaker with an innovative business model. The company is developing and will manufacture, distribute and service an all-new purpose built law enforcement patrol vehicle. The Carbon Motors mission includes developing a new lower-volume capable vehicle platform, establishing a direct and efficient end-to-end supply chain, and continuing to foster public and private sector collaboration. For more information, visit (www.carbonmotors.com).
About the Georgia Tech Research Institute: The Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) is the nonprofit applied research arm of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. GTRI's approximately 1,200 employees perform or support more than $100 million in research yearly for more than 200 clients in industry and government. For more information, visit (www.gtri.gatech.edu).
About the Georgia Tech Office of Economic Development and Technology Ventures: The Georgia Tech Office of Economic Development and Technology Ventures helps enterprises improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. With integrated service offerings focused on specific customer sets, the Office of Economic Development and Technology Ventures helps companies achieve and maintain a competitive edge, fosters development of successful startup firms, and assists communities and economic developers in adopting innovative practices. On May 1, the organization will become known as the Enterprise Innovation Institute. For more information, visit (www.edtv.gatech.edu).
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Writer: John Toon