South Bend pushes to become test site for drones and driverless cars

Published: Mar. 20, 2017 at 6:20 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

A different team at Notre Dame is shooting for the final four.

An academic team of students and faculty from the university’s Wireless Institute has joined forces with the City of South Bend to try and become one of four winners in a $100 million competition conducted by the National Science Foundation.

A share of the proceeds would be used to set up $25 million worth of high tech antennas from one end of South Bend to the other.

“What we’re at the cusp of here is the next chapter in wireless and we believe we can position South Bend as a testbed for piloting some of the most compelling wireless technology that’s going to be brought forward,” said Mayor Pete Buttigieg, (D) South Bend. For example, just a few days ago South Bend was the first place ever where control of a Wi-Fi based drone was passed from one base station to another.”

Today, some Notre Dame students held a drone demonstration at the O’Brien Recreation Center where they had earlier set the scientific first.

“And in particular what we’re looking toward, we’re building toward here is the idea of network control of a number of drones flying about the city for various use cases,” said Nick Laneman with the Wireless Institute. “There’s a bunch of issues that we have to address, there from a safety, reliability point of view and wireless networks of today are not capable of supporting those types of applications.”

The wireless system of tomorrow could come to town if South Bend wins a spot in the Platform for Advanced Wireless Research program.

“By virtue of us in being pioneers in the way that wireless is being researched we're also able to invent smart cities and autonomous vehicles,” said Santiago Garces, South Bend’s Chief Innovation Officer.

The city’s application will be submitted in July, with the first of four winners expected to be named in January. “You can do anything in wireless, but can you do it at scale?” asked Laneman. “And the challenge here and the interest from the National Science Foundation and from the wireless industry as a whole is to do this at city scale.

Not just one or two nodes in our lab at Notre Dame but on the order of 20 to 25 nodes scattered throughout South Bend.