Automotive

Halo Project spawns an all-electric, self-driving Subaru 4x4 fit for the apocalypse

The Mississippi State CAVS team showed the all-electric, autonomous Halo Project off-roader at the recent SEMA Show
The Mississippi State CAVS team showed the all-electric, autonomous Halo Project off-roader at the recent SEMA Show
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The Mississippi State CAVS team showed the all-electric, autonomous Halo Project off-roader at the recent SEMA Show
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The Mississippi State CAVS team showed the all-electric, autonomous Halo Project off-roader at the recent SEMA Show
The steel suspension spacers were cast, rolled and fabricated from raw elements at the CAVS Steel Research Center
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The steel suspension spacers were cast, rolled and fabricated from raw elements at the CAVS Steel Research Center
MSU Bagley College of Engineering students Will Meadows, Sean Sheehan and Chad Leachman work on the vehicle's electrified powertrain, with MSU's Car of the Future concept vehicle seen in the background
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MSU Bagley College of Engineering students Will Meadows, Sean Sheehan and Chad Leachman work on the vehicle's electrified powertrain, with MSU's Car of the Future concept vehicle seen in the background
The Clinton Body Shop gave the Halo its custom paint job
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The Clinton Body Shop gave the Halo its custom paint job
The Halo Project's electric powertrain and off-road suspension were designed and optimized as a single unit
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The Halo Project's electric powertrain and off-road suspension were designed and optimized as a single unit
A GPS antenna and LiDAR sensor are visible on a data collection run on MSU's off-road track
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A GPS antenna and LiDAR sensor are visible on a data collection run on MSU's off-road track
The Halo car has more attitude than the typical Subaru Forester ... and a lot more tech
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The Halo car has more attitude than the typical Subaru Forester ... and a lot more tech

There were plenty of automakers and aftermarket shops lining up to attract attention at last week's SEMA Show, but one of the show's most interesting vehicles came from the academic sector. The "Halo Project" Subaru from Mississippi State University looks at first glance like any other SEMA SUV – flared fenders, a powerful bumper, big tires and a loaded roof rack. But this R&D project is far from a basic show car, featuring an all-electric powertrain and autonomous hardware suite in exploration of the future of off-road navigation.

Off-roading is often thought of in purely recreational terms, at least in the United States, and especially at a show like SEMA. As such, it can seem like a poor fit for autonomous driving technology – when you're out kicking up dust for pure fun, why would you want to hand the reins over to sensors, computers and actuators?

But off-road driving is a necessary reality for many people around the world and the unpredictable, unrefined three-dimensional nature of the terrain presents unique challenges for self-driving technology. It's not so surprising, therefore, when someone like Land Rover or Mississippi State's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS) pursues all-terrain autonomous research.

In fact, CAVS focuses its greater autonomous research program more on non-urban environments, identifying off-road, industrial and heavy-duty duty vehicle automation as a few of the last frontiers in self-driving development. The center believes its Halo Project work could eventually result in breakthroughs relevant to military, agriculture, and search and rescue, along with personal commuting.

"Less than one percent of the Earth is paved, so we needed a vehicle that could be a capable development and test platform both on- and off-road," explains CAVS associate director and Halo Project lead Matthew Doude. "The Halo Project vehicle is all-wheel drive with tons of wheel torque from its four independent electric motors. This allows us to do research on topics like self-driving cars, even in rugged environments."

Plus, it looks way cooler than whatever self-driving rolling egg concept the major manufacturers are getting ready to release next.

The Halo Project's electric powertrain and off-road suspension were designed and optimized as a single unit
The Halo Project's electric powertrain and off-road suspension were designed and optimized as a single unit

The Halo Project actually brings together several key areas of CAVS auto research, from non-urban autonomy, to electric powertrains, to automotive steel. The car started life as a basic Subaru Forester before the CAVS team ripped the boxer engine out and replaced it with four YASA motors at the wheels. The motors team for a whopping 7,375 lb-ft (10,000 Nm) of torque, distributed with help from custom-designed transmissions from the UK's Hewland Engineering. A next-gen A123 lithium-ion battery offers an estimated 230-mile (370-km) range.

The Halo car is capable of driving both on- and off-road without human intervention, maintaining a keen sense of its surroundings via its multi-sensor set. Stereo cameras act as the car's eyes in identifying and classifying objects ahead; four LiDAR units provide the data for detailed 3D maps; and radar helps identify terrain type and see through rain and snow. The data from all those sensors gets processed through an onboard Nvidia supercomputer.

A GPS antenna and LiDAR sensor are visible on a data collection run on MSU's off-road track
A GPS antenna and LiDAR sensor are visible on a data collection run on MSU's off-road track

The Halo's upgraded off-road suspension was built in part with steel melted, cast and rolled at the CAVS steel research center. And to give the car the big, bold looks it needed to make an impression at SEMA, CAVS teamed with Clinton Body Shop on the bodywork and paint job.

After last week's SEMA debut, the Halo car will make its way to various conferences and automotive events. CAVS plans to build an autonomous test track on land recently acquired by MSU.

Source: Mississippi State University

5 comments
myale
Just hope they protected the sensors and electronics to handle the terrain and odd tree branch or rock that may hit them - else a blind autonomous car in the middle of knowwhere would not be great.
Gary Kerkin
“The data from all those sensors gets processed through an onboard Nvidia supercomputer.” Really?
ljaques
7k# of torque is a bit overkill, but I guess that's OK. Um, I didn't see the word "hardened" in that text, re: EMP protection from nuke or solar flare. Are the sensors and wiring hardened?
RainerSchulte
Well- seeing all those drowned Teslas in USA there is no way for Electric 4x4 cars yet. You will stick in the middle of a river or ditch with shorted batteries, electronics or motors. The same with those ECU 4x4 vehicles with the computer under the drivers seat. For desert jobs may be- but not for water. Electronics and water are the enemies of all times! A good old Diesel without ECU is the answer. ) And do not get a heart attack seeing the spare part prices for Injectors, Sensors, etc. for ECU Motors. Perhaps there are two people in the USA that could assemble a Tesla Model from scratch and who are not in the Tesla enterprise.
Bob Flint
Yeah, some of those welds look crude, and why is the GPS antennae mounted on the spare tire. Self driving vehicle is going to be able to get the spare down and replace a wheel, now that's advanced...
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