More than 270 automotive engineering and technical experts convened this week at the University of Michigan's College of Engineering for the 2014 Annual Review of the Automotive Research Center (ARC). A public-private partnership of automotive experts in government, industry and academia, the ARC is dedicated to conducting basic research in high-fidelity modeling, simulation and testing of military and civilian ground vehicles. The value-add to the test, research and development community is the transference of critical technologies, data and analysis tools for educating and informing technical personnel about emerging capabilities and test criteria. This year marked the ARC's 20th anniversary.

Nigel Francis, Senior Vice President -- Automotive, Michigan Economic Development Corp., opened the 2-day event by noting that talented people are the greatest driver of economic growth, and congratulated the ARC for its significant contributions to Michigan's automotive industry talent pool. Francis also noted the ARC's unique, cross-disciplinary approach to encourage crucial industry collaboration and innovation, a theme emphasized repeatedly throughout the event. Other key discussion topics ranged from autonomy-enabled systems and modularity, to reducing dependency on fossil fuels.

Three top government research and development (R&D) leaders shared their strategic and visionary focus for automotive R&D looking to the future. U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) Director Dr. Paul Rogers described TARDEC's 30-Year Strategy. Rogers noted that the Army's Future Force will be more expeditionary, autonomy-enabled and efficient, compared to today's combat and tactical vehicle fleets. Rogers applauded the research conducted by the ARC, and its longstanding reputation as an Army Center of Excellence. "The most valuable thing you produce is the student, and that passion, that knowledge, that hands-on experience that they gained from the academic institutions that are represented here today."

During his presentation, Jeffrey Singleton, U.S. Army Director of Basic Research, described the four major efforts in basic research: materials science and multi-scale modeling; intelligent/autonomous systems; human sciences/cybernetics; and network, quantum information science, and cyber.

Patrick Davis, Director of the Vehicle Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the Department of Energy, discussed the clear and present goal of reducing dependence on foreign petroleum, and the numerous research areas that will contribute to that goal, such as vehicle lightweighting, downsized engines and fueling infrastructure. Davis also discussed the Advanced Vehicle Power Technology Alliance (AVPTA), a partnership with TARDEC.

To honor the ARC's 20th anniversary, ARC Founding Director Professor Panos Papalambros, described the organization's start as "built on trust, and trusting relationships," in keeping with the day's common theme of collaboration. In addition, five ARC alumni shared highlights of their subsequent careers, examples that clearly showed the deep impact that the ARC has had in the advancing engineering knowledge in the automotive field.

In addition to the prestigious line-up of guest speakers, two case study findings were presented on innovative research that had been conducted over the past year. Both studies were multidisciplinary, and both teams stated how much they had benefited from this approach, which moved them out of their comfort zones and enabled new insights. Case Study 1 described the efforts to develop a fuel surrogate for military vehicles. Case Study 2 examined the adaptability and costs for a modular vehicle fleet.

The final day's agenda included the Automotive Research Center Annual Review and additional presentations of automotive research findings and studies.