Thirty University of Michigan-Dearborn students, all residents of the Union at Dearborn, were selected to take part in a research study conducted by automotive supplier DENSO International America, Inc. in partnership with the Detroit-based advanced energy and mobility technologies accelerator NextEnergy.
The study will analyze the car sharing habits of people who live, work, and frequent the same location. Students will be given near free reign over three Ford Focus electric vehicles, requiring only that they reserve the vehicles through a custom third-party reservation app. They're permitted to take the cars wherever they please, from dinner dates with friends to concerts downtown, from grocery stores to trips back home.
Students are even allowed to leave the state with the cars, but they're not allowed to leave the continental United States with the vehicles.
"MDrive is a great opportunity for University of Michigan-Dearborn students to participate in an eco-friendly, alternative transportation option on campus," Chancellor Daniel Little says in a statement. "Our students will be one of the few who have the potential to influence the new technology decision-making process for vehicle sharing products, services, and business models."
On-board diagnostics equipment and cameras have been installed in the cars, enabling DENSO to collect real-time data and record user experiences. DENSO also installed three charging stations at three parking spaces for the electric vehicles.
In return for the use of the cars, students are required to answer short surveys after each trip. A weekly discussion board will also be held.
According to Michael Bima, a lead engineer in the North American Research and Engineering Center at DENSO International America, "Our goal is to learn more about what technologies are most needed in car share vehicles of the future. And this will help us collect user feedback to design products for the car sharing market."
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