Joe Monaco
KU Office of Public Affairs

Public invited to test KU student-designed automobile concepts

Thu, 04/11/2013

LAWRENCE – For the past few months, University of Kansas students at the Center for Design Research have partnered with Ford Motor Company on a project to eliminate something most people use every day: the automobile gearshift.

Now the Lawrence community will have the opportunity to test the students’ new designs and provide feedback.

At noon Sunday, April 14, KU students will set up the front half of a Ford Taurus at Hy-Vee, 3504 Clinton Parkway, and invite the public to test working models of new steering wheels, dashboards and consoles developed by the students. The students will solicit feedback to help refine their designs before presenting them to Ford later in the year.

The goal of the KU-Ford research partnership, which was first announced in September 2012, is to redesign or eliminate the traditional automobile gearshift, that clunky handle that’s been between the front seats of many cars for decades. Such a redesign would free valuable space that Ford wants to use for other purposes.

Ford provided the CDR with the Taurus shell – known in the industry as a “buck” – a few months ago to help KU students develop new designs. But the student-designed prototypes could fit into any Ford, from the Taurus to the Fiesta to the F-150 pickup.

Ford representatives will soon be in Lawrence to review the student work, led by Department of Design Professor Greg Thomas, who directs the CDR.

“We’ve been working with Ford for a few months now, and we’re excited for the general public and potential consumers to try our new concepts,” Thomas said. “This project has been a great opportunity for KU and for Ford. Our faculty and students get the experience of working on a real-world project for one of the world's most innovative companies, and Ford gets to utilize the talent we have here at KU.”

The CDR was launched in 2011 to conduct innovative research in smart technologies, consumer products and services. The CDR has been especially focused on the areas of distracted driving and automobile safety, as well as wireless technologies that impact health and wellness. In addition to Ford, the CDR is currently doing projects for Bayer HeathCare, Garmin and a number of other companies.

The CDR is part of the School of Architecture, Design and Planning at KU.

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