UM-D students taking part in vehicle sharing study

Photo by Zeinab Najm DENSO North. American Research and Engineering Center Lead Engineer Michael Bima (left), University of Michigan-Dearborn Chancellor Daniel Little, UM-D sophomore Tessa Smith and UM-D freshman Matt Felice test the reservation app for one of three Ford Focus Electric vehicles available to students under the car sharing study.

Photo by Zeinab Najm
DENSO North. American Research and Engineering Center Lead Engineer Michael Bima (left), University of Michigan-Dearborn Chancellor Daniel Little, UM-D sophomore Tessa Smith and UM-D freshman Matt Felice test the reservation app for one of three Ford Focus Electric vehicles available to students under the car sharing study.

By ZEINAB NAJM
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — Students at the University of Michigan-Dearborn will take part in a vehicle sharing study that runs through April.

The study — announced Dec. 1 by global automotive supplier DENSO International America, UM-D and NextEnergy — “aims to determine what technology or features will be needed for car sharing participants,” Michael Bima, DENSO North American Research and Engineering Center lead engineer said.

The study focuses on car sharing needs by students attending UM-D and living at The Union, UM-D’s off campus apartments, who will use the vehicles for running errands, socializing or traveling outside the city.

This location and group of 30 students were selected because of UM-D’s history of working with DENSO and its responsive students to similar programs.

“The study is an outstanding collaboration for our students,” UM-D Chancellor Daniel Little said. “This is the future of driving and technology and we have the opportunity to participate first-hand.”

Students were selected through an application process where they submitted their demographics, why they wanted to participate and why they would be good for the project.

In return for using the vehicles, the students will provide feedback, and participate in group discussions and surveys.

Cameras are placed in the three Ford Focus Electric vehicles so the experience of the drivers can be documented.

Also, real-time vehicle usage data will be collected through on-board diagnostics equipment based on how students use the vehicles.

Bima shared a presentation explaining how car sharing lessens environmental impact, corrects capital inefficiency and plays a key role in defining the future of mobility solutions.

An application was created for students to be able to reserve times and days they would like to use the vehicle. They also can unlock and lock the vehicle from the app and report damage.

Charging stations are outside The Union for students to charge the electric vehicles between trips.

“Electric vehicles were selected for this study because of two reasons … to better promote an eco-friendly environment and expose new users to electric vehicles,” Bima said.

UM-D students, freshman Matt Felice and sophomore Tessa Smith shared some of their thoughts on the study just a month into it.
As a student with no vehicle, Smith joined the study last-minute because it filled a need for her.

“Not having a vehicle and depending on others to give me rides is difficult,” she said. “Now I’m able to be part of this study, earn a great experience and have freedom to go out on my own time.”

A mechanical engineer major, Felice said he enjoys being a part of the study.

“I’ve had a few reserving issues because of time, but no problems with the electric vehicle itself,” Felice said. “It’s been fun getting used to driving an electric car.”

Bima said there are plans to expand the study to additional locations and different user pool in the future.

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at zeinabnajm92@gmail.com.)