Electronic Thermal Management for Autonomous Vehicles

Electronic Thermal Management for Autonomous Vehicles

General Motors is one of the world’s largest automakers. From electric mini-cars to heavy-duty full-size trucks, General Motors provides a complete range of vehicles that meets the needs and expectations of drivers on a truly global scale.

Highly- or fully-autonomous vehicles (Levels 4 and 5) require enormous amounts of computation in the automated driving systems for mapping, sensor fusion, trajectory planning, decision making, communication, etc.   The enhanced computational power generates a significant amount of heat.   To ensure a driving system works properly and reliably component systems must be maintained within acceptable temperature ranges under all conditions and environments.  This requires a thermal management system to heat and cool as appropriate.     The most efficient thermal management system will not only regulate temperature of component systems but will capture excess thermal energy converting it to some positive benefit.

The student team is expected to deliver a working prototype thermal management system for the computation, controls ,and electronic subsystems.  The system should include energy harvesting mechanisms and energy storage resulting in maximum possible energy efficiency. The prototype will reflect the operational requirements of an actual, in-design autonomous vehicle.    Potential avenues of inquiry include incorporation of thermo-electric devices, solar panels, phase-change materials to harvest heat, store, utilize excess energy to power cooling  devices, providing heating, etc.


Students who successfully match to this project team will be required to sign the following two documents in January 2018:

Check back in September for the IP/NDA Agreements.

How to Apply

Project Features

  • Skill level All levels
  • Students 6-7 Students
  • Likely Majors ChE, EE, MSE, ME, PHYSICS
  • Course Substitutions Honors, ME 490, ME 590, ISD-Auto, ISD-Game
  • IP & NDA Required? Yes
  • Summer Opportunity See Complete Description for Details
  • Energy Conversion and Storage (2 Students)

    Physical/chemical understanding of energy conversion storage technologies.

    • Likely Majors: MSE, ChE, PHYS
  • Mechanical Design (1-2 Students)

    Mechanical design 3D prototyping skills, CAD. Excellent design-build skills. Basic electronics.

    • Likely Majors: ME
  • Heat Transfer and Fluids Modeling (2 Students)

    Heat transfer modeling and simulation, numerical modeling, solid hands on skills

    • Likely Majors: ME, ChE, PHYS
  • Electrical Controls (1 Student)

    Design efficient electrical based transfer mechanisms. Develop control structure (EECS 460/461 level)

    • Likely Majors: EE

Sponsor Mentor: Eric Yen, Ph.Damanda-sponsor
Staff Researcher
Dr. Yen is currently Staff Researcher at General Motors Global R&D Center at Warren, Michigan. He received his B.S. degree from Tamkang University, Taiwan and his M.S./Ph.D. degrees from Carnegie Mellon University. His current research interests are on ground vehicle aerodynamics, vehicle health management, autonomous vehicle diagnosis and prognosis, and battery thermal management.
Faculty Mentor: Dan Kline
A graduate of GMI (now Kettering University) and the University of Michigan with over 40 years experience in product design and development with General Motors. During the GM career, a management lead for product design teams as well as test and development activities across all GM vehicle platforms. The last 5 years of the long career were spent as the executive in charge of the global test lab operations with key responsibilities for test technology strategies and investments in road and lab based tools and methods as well as the IT applications for data and project management that linked the GM global product development operations. Industry experience is now leveraged to provide mentor guidance to future engineers in the U of M – MDP Program.