Virtual Instrumentation Enables FutureTruck 2002 Engineering Teams to Create Low Emission, Fuel Efficient SUVs

6/24/2002 - National Instruments (Nasdaq: NATI) announced that student teams at the FutureTruck 2002 competition, which concluded Friday, June 21, embraced virtual instrumentation in their quest to develop more environmentally friendly vehicles. The event challenged teams from 15 North American universities to re-engineer a Ford Explorer to have lower emissions and greater fuel economy without sacrificing critical features such as safety and performance. The U.S. Department of Energy and Ford Motor Co. as well as major industry and government organizations, such as National Instruments, sponsor FutureTruck.

As a major event sponsor, NI donated software and hardware to teams interested in implementing the concepts of virtual instrumentation -- using commercially available PC technologies and industry-standard software to build custom measurement and control systems. Fourteen of the 15 competing teams chose the NI products to design, test, and control their re-engineered vehicles, citing benefits such as ease-of-use, integration with other components, rapid system development, and reliability.

"Our use of virtual instrumentation proved crucial in our ability to quickly design, prototype, and implement our vehicle's control system," said Tom Grillo, Control System Developer on the Cornell University team. "With LabVIEW, we could begin debugging our control system software before we even finished building many of the actual components, considerably reducing our overall development time."

NI recognized three teams for their innovation in implementing LabVIEW Real-Time, a software tool that combines development ease-of-use with real-time, deterministic performance. In choosing the winners, FutureTruck judges from Ford and NI evaluated how teams used the LabVIEW Real-Time graphical development environment to help meet the FutureTruck goals of lower emissions and better fuel efficiency.

Cornell University students earned top honors for their well-integrated hybrid control system design, which combined the truck's internal combustion system with an electric motor. Second place went to Texas Tech University, and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo received third place.

"As an active participant in the education and development of engineers around the world, we have enjoyed sharing the students' creativity and enthusiasm during FutureTruck," said Tim Dehne, NI Vice President of Engineering. "By working with these teams for the past eight months, we have seen these young men and women gain valuable experience combining their engineering skills with the latest technology to solve real-world problems, such as lowering vehicle emissions to improve our environment."

About FutureTruck
FutureTruck student teams were challenged to redesign their vehicle for lower emissions and 25 percent higher fuel economy without sacrificing performance, utility, safety, and affordability. Teams worked throughout the academic year to achieve these goals by designing alternative fuel systems, including hybrid electric vehicles and fuel cell-powered engines. The FutureTruck competition began June 11 at the Ford Motor Co. proving ground in Yucca, Ariz., where judges evaluated the performance and utility of each team's vehicle. The competition then shifted to the Los Angeles area on June 16 for emissions testing, oral presentations, and other static design competitions, and then culminated on June 21 with a press conference and awards presentation.

About NI
NI leverages commercial technologies, such as industry-standard computers and the Internet, to deliver customer-defined measurement and automation solutions. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, NI has more than 2,900 employees and direct operations in more than 37 countries. NI increases the productivity of engineers and scientists worldwide by delivering easy-to-integrate software and modular hardware. In 2001, the company sold products to more than 24,000 different companies in more than 60 countries around the world. For the past three consecutive years, FORTUNE magazine has named NI one of the 100 best companies to work for in America.

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