Skip to content

Bruce Hicks, a junior majoring in electrical engineering, demonstrates the progress he and a team of Florida Polytechnic University research assistants have made on transforming an old golf cart into an autonomous, solar-powered vehicle.

LAKELAND,
Fla. – A team of researchers at Florida Polytechnic University is turning a
disused golf cart into a solar-powered autonomous vehicle that will be used to
advance cutting-edge research for years to come. The project is funded by the
University’s Advanced Mobility Institute and will be used to support a $350,000
National Science Foundation award to develop a large-scale simulation
facility for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV).

“We
are designing this in such a way that students can do research with it – it’s
not just for demonstration,” said Dr. Arman Sargolzaei, director of the
Advanced Mobility Institute, which focuses on the development and testing of
autonomous vehicle technology. “We are making the code and applications
available, so undergraduate and graduate students in the future can do research
and implement different algorithms for different fields for autonomy, control
systems, cybersecurity, power systems, and energy systems.”

The
project is a marriage between the two critical and emerging fields of renewable
energy and connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technology. Dr. Mohammad Reza
Khalghani is leading the renewable energy part of the project.

Student
researchers spent the spring semester repairing the broken golf cart, and began
working on its high-tech transformation at the start of the summer term. They
first developed a simulated golf cart for demonstrations and then recreated the
simulations on the actual vehicle.

“It’s
becoming more and more important to have smart ways of transporting people.
Smart technology has become a lot bigger recently and it’s only going to
increase,” said electrical engineering junior Eduarda Farias, an international
student from Brazil who is a research assistant on the project. “Autonomous
vehicles are one of the next technologies we are going to integrate into our
lives.”

The
team recently achieved a successful milestone by converting the cart into a
drive-by-wire vehicle that can be controlled through a website. James Holland
’20, a research assistant on the project, said the cart is now similar to a big
remote-controlled vehicle.

“Our
demo went really well with the golf cart rolling forward at 50 percent
acceleration and then backward before coming to a stop on its own. It followed
the commands to a T,” said Holland. “It was awesome to see the payoff of all
our work and see it run.”

The
team plans to continue working on the vehicle both in person and remotely over
the coming semester.

“The
next steps will include working on path following and object avoidance
algorithms and programming – really developing the autonomous part of the golf
cart,” said Farias.

“It’s
been amazing seeing the golf cart actually run. I love that I could walk into a
professor’s office and become part of a really fun project like this.”

For the most
recent university news, visit Florida Poly News.

About
Florida Polytechnic University:
Florida Polytechnic University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Commission on Colleges and is a member of the State University System of
Florida. It is the only state university dedicated exclusively to STEM
and offers ABET accredited degrees.
Florida Poly is a powerful economic engine within the state of
Florida, blending applied research with industry partnerships to give students
an academically rigorous education with real-world relevance. Connect with Florida Poly.

Scroll To Top