Ford, U.S. Department of Energy, National Instruments Highlight Latest Technology for Designing Next-Generation SUVs

1/10/2003 - Engineering students from 15 North American universities are attending the FutureTruck Summit for advanced technical training sponsored by the Ford Motor Co., the U.S. Department of Energy, and National Instruments. The training helps them prepare for the 2003 FutureTruck competition, which challenges student teams to redesign a Ford Explorer for lower emissions and higher fuel economy without sacrificing performance, utility, safety and affordability.

At the Summit, students also have an opportunity to improve their knowledge of the LabVIEW graphical development environment and other computer-based tools used to design more environmentally friendly SUVs.

"We are here to gain valuable hands-on experience with NI LabVIEW Real-Time and other virtual instrumentation technologies to develop a hydrogen-fueled vehicle for the competition," said engineering student Bruce Billian, who leads the FutureTruck team from Virginia Tech. "Learning to optimize industry-standard tools such as LabVIEW gives us competitive skills that we can apply not only to FutureTruck but also to school engineering projects and future careers."

Ford and the DOE, through its research facility at the Argonne National Laboratory, are participating in the training as part of their sponsorship of FutureTruck. Research done by FutureTruck teams supports the ongoing work of Ford and the DOE in increasing the fuel efficiency of SUVs while reducing vehicle emissions. As a major sponsor of FutureTruck, NI donates LabVIEW software and measurement hardware to teams interested in monitoring and controlling their vehicles using virtual instruments, which leverage commercially available PC technologies and industry-standard software.

"By attending the FutureTruck Summit, students gain valuable technical skills and learn to apply virtual instrumentation software and hardware tools to real-world issues such as fuel economy and environmental protection," said Ray Almgren, NI vice president of product marketing and academic relations. "We are excited to play such an active role in FutureTruck because it not only illustrates how engineers can use technology to improve everyday life but also helps us in our continuing commitment to educate and inspire engineers around the world."

During training, students learn how virtual instrumentation tools such as LabVIEW Real-Time, NI Compact FieldPoint distributed I/O and other NI data acquisition hardware can help them quickly design engine control and monitoring systems. Also, Ford representatives discuss electric vehicle systems designed for its line of Ford Ranger trucks. Other sessions cover FutureTruck judging requirements, telematics and wireless networking.

FutureTruck culminates in 10 days of judging that begins June 2 at the Ford Michigan Proving Ground in Romeo, Mich. and the Allen Park Testing Laboratories in Allen Park, Mich. Vehicle evaluations include technical performance, such as acceleration, handling and fuel economy, as well as a thorough review of vehicle designs. A vehicle display and awards ceremony will be held June 12 in conjunction with Ford's Centennial Anniversary in Dearborn, Mich.

About FutureTruck
FutureTruck is a unique four-year engineering program that brings together the resources of industry, government and academia in a cooperative effort to address important environmental and energy-related issues posed by the growing demand for SUVs. FutureTruck student teams are challenged to redesign their vehicle for lower emissions and 25 percent higher fuel economy. This unique competition demonstrates how industry, government, and academia can develop more energy-efficient and greener automotive technologies to improve the economy and the environment. For more information about this unique competition, visit

About National Instruments
For more than 26 years, National Instruments has revolutionized the way engineers and scientists work by delivering virtual instrumentation solutions built on rapidly advancing commercial technologies, including industry-standard computers and the Internet. NI increases productivity for customers worldwide by delivering easy-to-integrate software, such as the NI LabVIEW graphical development environment, and modular hardware, such as PXI modules for data acquisition and instrumentation. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, NI has more than 3,000 employees and direct operations in 37 countries. In 2001, the company sold products to more than 24,000 different companies in more than 60 countries around the world. For the past four consecutive years, FORTUNE magazine has named NI one of the 100 best companies to work for in America.

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