Signaling a trend toward closer and more efficient technical collaboration between the U.S. government and private industry, officials from SAE International and TARDEC, the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Engineering and Develop Center, announced on Sept. 26 the creation of a new organization aimed at reducing the time and cost of vehicle-technology transfer while minimizing the bureaucracy and risks typically associated with government contract awards.
The non-profit Defense Automotive Technologies Consortium (DATC) will focus on six strategic areas: cyber security; autonomous vehicles and intelligent systems; connected vehicles; lightweighting; vehicle safety and advanced energy storage, noted SAE International CEO David Schutt.
DATC is “a seminal program that will provide an entirely new value proposition to the automotive industry and advance SAE’s mission. It’s a big win,” Schutt said.
The new consortium aims to provide private, non-profit and academic organizations “unprecedented” access to U.S. government projects, officials claim, while providing revenue opportunities and cutting procurement “red tape.” It will also reduce financial risk, they said, as program awards cannot be protested and are not subject to Defense Audit Agency audits.
With the DATC, TARDEC and other government-defense entities seek to engage the private and academic sectors, particularly the automotive supply base, tech start-ups and incubators that previously have been reluctant to pursue government business, in what they assert will be "a rapid and cost-efficient manner."
“The TARDEC-SAE consortium appears to be a positive step for helping to reduce R&D costs for future U.S. Army and Marine Corps. vehicles and related systems,” observed Nelson Fisk, the principal analyst covering military/defense vehicles at IHS Markit.
“Leveraging technologies being developed for high-volume automotive and commercial-vehicle space, particular off-the-shelf and modular systems, will also help the military reduce risk in some programs and speed implementation,” he said.
The agreement, signed Sept. 21, has a seven-year term. It was awarded to and will operate under the aegis of the SAE Industry Technologies Consortium (ITC), an affiliate of SAE International. SAE ITC functions as a consensus-based trade association with the goal of building industry infrastructure tailored to its respective technology, market and industry member groups.
According to David Schutt, the new DATC has already attracted a large number of automotive OEMs and suppliers. He noted that 35 automotive companies wrote letters supporting SAE and indicating their intent to join the new consortium. SAE ITC has begun conducting workshops for potential consortium members and working closely with TARDEC and other governmental agencies to identify new technology projects.
“We are confident this new business will result in fascinating and valuable research projects for SAE customers,” Schutt said. “Through the establishment of the Defense Automotive Technologies Consortium, SAE once again makes a significant contribution to the Department of Defense and delivers value to the automotive industry.”