Spotlight: Now You Can Study the Automobile at Stanford

Jun 30, 2015 12:00 PM EDT | Jeff Jablansky

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Finally, there is an answer in the academic world for the student who wants to study cars.

Acting as the nexus between academia and automobiles, the Revs program at Stanford University—interrelated with the Revs Institute in Florida—exists to prove that the study of the automobile is truly cross-disciplinary.

"Every single person at a university could have a seat at that table," Revs executive director Reilly Brennan told us.

Brennan leads a small but capable staff charged with fulfilling a unique mission on campus. The program isn't the only one in the U.S.—Clemson University runs the International Center for Automotive Research—but it is the automotive academic program located closest to Silicon Valley.

The space that Revs occupies on the Stanford campus, roughly the size of an airplane hangar, is the dream of anyone interested in the future of the automobile and its place in society. On the day we visited, two prototypes were sitting and whirring front and center, alongside a loaned Volkswagen e-Golf. A solar-powered project car was placed among desks and tables, next to a full-scale laboratory. Way in the back, there's a driving simulator not dissimilar to those found at manufacturer R&D sites. Outside, a large European van awaited conversion as part of a project to engage the community.

Beyond offering students a space to get involved with automobiles and courses throughout the academic year, Revs plays a bigger part in cataloguing automotive history through a digital photo library. By keeping photos of important moments relevant—and available—the program could change the way that we look at the automobile over time. Now that's a term paper we wouldn't mind writing.

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