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With $60,000 Ford Grant, University of Detroit Mercy Aims to Develop Cleaning Jets for Automotive Cameras

The Ford grant will enable the University of Detroit Mercy to advance the research of air and fluid cleaning jets for automotive cameras.

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For advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) to function properly, vehicle cameras need to have an unobstructed view of the road. With a $60,000 grant from Ford, the University of Detroit Mercy is working on technology that will keep those cameras obstruction-free.

“This is right up our alley,” Detroit Mercy professor of mechanical engineering Mark Schumack said. “Autonomous vehicles is an area Ford is really starting to emphasize in its product lines and future development projects. It’s state-of-the-art stuff, so it keeps us connected with what’s going on in industry.”

With autonomous vehicles just around the corner, and a new law requiring all cars to have backup cameras beginning in 2018, the need for cameras on vehicles should continue to grow. At the same time, the auto industry will need technology that keeps those cameras clear of rain, snow, ice, mud, dirt and other debris.

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The Ford grant will enable the University of Detroit Mercy to advance the research of air and fluid cleaning jets for automotive cameras.

“This also allows us to connect with Ford and have a relationship with industry where we can apply a lot of the theory I talk about in class,” Schumack added.

To design cleaning systems, engineers must understand how the airflow over the camera interacts with the fluid jets between the nozzle exit and surface, and details of the fluid flow as it spreads over the surface and removes debris in its path.

“This project aims to analyze the physics behind the interacting fluid flows above and across the lens covering,” Schumack explained. “This provides engineers with a reliable tool for predicting behavior of various designs.”

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The number of cameras on an autonomous vehicle can vary, as can the positioning of the cameras, which means the fluid jets have to function in a variety of ways.

“The cameras are basically the eyes for the vehicle,” Schumack said. “Each lens covers a different location, so the air flow that would interact with any fluid stream is going to be different. It’s going to be different in the front than it is in the back, so there might be a different nozzle position and different direction they have to orient the fluid onto the lens covers.”

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Schumack said Detroit Mercy will develop both an analytical model (paper and pencil) and a computer model.

“It will provide those two models just to enable engineers to make better decisions about where to locate the fluid jets,” Schumack said. “The idea is that it shortens their design time because they don’t have to do much prototype testing.”

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