The top universities and colleges for automotive / vehicle research

For those seeking a career in the auto industry choosing a college or university can be daunting. More students than ever will be facing this decision as engineering is one of the top fields of study.

The good news for students is that the automotive industry is booming. Transformation of the auto industry from fuel to electric powertrains, the legislation for emissions reduction, and autonomous vehicles will provide plenty of areas for growth. Car companies, their suppliers, and related industries need people with the right knowledge, passion, and experience. Here is a list of the best institutions for students in the North America to pursue an education.

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Automotive engineering and vehicle research institutions:

  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of Michigan
  • The University of Texas
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • University of California, Davis
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute
  • Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)
  • Cornell University
  • Kettering University
  • The University of Toronto
  • California Polytechnic State University
  • Clemson University
  • University of British Columbia
  • University of Maryland College Park
  • Arizona State University
  • University of Florida
  • The University of Waterloo


University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley Mechanical Engineering is the top ranked public mechanical engineering program in the United States and one of the best mechanical engineering departments in the world.

The teaching and research laboratories are among the most active, innovative and productive worldwide. Students are able to specialize in Automotive engineering as a part of the department of mechanical engineering, one of over ten program specialization.

The university also provides exchange programs for students which enable them to be more exposed and gain experience from different parts of the world. UCB faculty and students come from diverse backgrounds and represent the best and brightest from all over the world.

Students have the opportunity to enhance their knowledge of contemporary mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, electronics, control systems, the development of software, and business. The Masters in Engineering in Automotive Engineering degree is available for on-campus or online study providing the students with enough flexibility to study from wherever they are comfortable.

Graduates of the Automotive Engineering degree program move the automotive industry further into the 21st century and beyond.


University of Michigan / Michigan State University / Michigan Technological University

It’s a draw between these three Michigan Universities when it comes to training the best automotive engineers in the Country. All the above offer Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in mechanical and automotive engineering.

Alumni of each are active in automotive manufacturers and research companies Worldwide. Industry professionals comprise a large percentage of the faculty, teacher to student ratios are also among the best. In the automotive field, employers look for more than a degree held by the prospective recent grads, they look for hands on experience. Delivering a high-quality education, the three Michigan schools provide opportunities for real world experience.

The Michigan Universities have also updated programs and facilities throughout their extensive history. This ensures the schools remain competitive for the quality of education and student life.


The University of Texas at Austin / University of Texas at Arlington

The three universities have more than 10 wins in FSAE, FSAE West, and FSAE Japan competitions. Baccalaureate programs in mechanical engineering have accreditation, providing a broad understanding rooted in mathematics, science and basic engineering sciences. Advanced courses are available to develop specific skills in manufacturing, robotics, solid and fluid mechanics, thermal and fluid systems, dynamics and controls, and biomechanics.

Of the Texas schools, The University of Texas at Austin provides ample hands-on engineering experience helps students. Founded in 1861, the institution has grown to be one of the major centers for engineering and vehicle research in the country. The University of Texas at Austin is home to some 7,900 students in nine undergraduate degree programs.

Graduates will be ready to work in a variety of industries or to pursue graduate study.


Georgia Institute of Technology

Based in the heart of growing Atlanta, Georgia. The Georgia Tech College of Engineering is developing tomorrow’s global leaders in engineering, science and technology.

In 2012, Georgia Tech’s George W Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering changed its curriculum to provide greater flexibility. Students are now able to select from multidisciplinary paths or choose to focus on one area.

Additionally, Georgia Tech is respected as a design school. Not insignificant the schools mascot is a 1930 Ford Model A Sports Coupe heralding its rich automotive history and expertise.

The university produces graduates who become critical to the transport industry, working on everything from developing of hybrid and electric cars to autonomous and underwater vehicles.


University of California, Davis

Ranked among the best public research universities, UC Davis provides opportunities for mechanical engineering students to apply fundamental principles in hands-on projects. New students begin a rigorous series of courses in mathematics, natural sciences, and basic engineering to prepare themselves for more advanced study.

At the upper-division level, they study more advanced essential engineering topics. Fourth year, students select an area of focus and begin tailoring their major to their interests and skills. Examples of specialization are; vehicle stability, Mechatronics, combustion and the environment or wind-tunnel experimentation.

Mechanical engineering graduates from UC Davis often head to careers in a range of industries. Others may enter graduate studies in engineering or other related technical areas.

UC Davis graduates put their acquired skills to use solving societal problems such as industrial pollution, suitable mass transport systems or the need for clean-running private cars.


Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Virginia Tech earns spot to compete in 2017 AutoDrive Challenge

The 2017 AutoDrive Challenge vehicle will require full autonomous driving in an urban driving course. The AutoDrive Challenge will use a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV as the project test platform.

Located close to the center of the U.S. racing industry in North Carolina, Virginia Tech produces a competitive FSAE team on a regular basis. Additionally, the institution produces engineers who are some of the best drivers.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University or Virginia Tech provides more than 200 undergraduate & graduate degree programs to around 30,000 students. The college has more than 66,000 engineering alumni who contribute to a wide number of industries.

The university was also selected as one of eight schools to compete in the AutoDrive Challenge, a new collegiate competition funded by the Society of Automotive Engineering together with General Motors. It is an excellent place to pursue automotive engineering.


Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)

Purdue doctoral students Dan Van Alstine and Karla Stricker work on a diesel-engine test platform at the Ray W. Herrick Laboratories. The work is related to a new effort aimed at cutting fuel consumption in half for commercial vehicles by perfecting hybrid technologies for the world’s burgeoning bus and truck fleets. The new Hoosier Heavy Hybrid Center of Excellence is funded with a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Graduate Automotive Technology Education initiative. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

Purdue has produced the best engineers in Detroit boasting a motorsports engineering program. The College of Engineering is one of the biggest in the continent with interdisciplinary studies which provide students the opportunity to pursue a broad course of study. The class projects are built around actual race team operations and working, so the students get exposed very early on in their studies.

The school provides a perfect combination of engineering curriculum including vehicle dynamics, aerodynamics, acquisition of data, and other motorsports-related courses. The universities strong network of racing and automotive industry connections which ensure that graduates have it easy when looking for employment and internship opportunities. Motorsports Engineering at IUPUI gives students a Purdue University engineering degree—right at the heart of the racing capital of America.


Cornell University

The Ithaca, New York institution has eight FSAE championships and has entered both the Automotive X Prize competition and the DARPA driverless vehicle event. The Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering offers accredited undergraduate degrees in mechanical engineering.

Students of the program receive an extensive education of fundamentals as well an introduction to the many fields in which mechanical engineering applies. The undergraduate field program is a well-coordinated sequence of courses beginning in the second year of study.


Kettering University

Kettering autonomous vehicle proving grounds

Kettering University unveiled this week an automotive proving grounds in a bid to lure companies and students to the Flint, MI area. The test track is on the school’s grounds, housed on land that once contained a massive General Motors’ manufacturing facility that was torn down and left abandoned.

Located in Flint, Michigan, the school previously known as General Motors Institute offers degrees in management as well as engineering. Kettering University has become known for its skilled faculty who come from a rich background of industrial experience.

With approximately 3,000 students, the University supports small class sizes who have access to state-of-the-art and equipped labs. Unlike other schools, co-op opportunities begin in your first year Kettering.

A collaborative partnership with more than 700 industrial employers helps in keeping Kettering faculty in close contact with modern industrial needs. This relationship has led to industrial research projects in undergraduate programs which increase student participation.

These efforts seek to better prepare Mechanical Engineering students for teamwork assignments and concurrent cooperative engineering in the workplace. Graduates of the University hit-the-ground-running, thanks to half a decade of cooperative training and thesis projects which combine theory and practice.


The University of Toronto

Self-driving electric car to be created by new U of T Engineering student team

U of T Engineering’s newest student team will spend the next year retrofitting a Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle with visual sensors, robotic components and software that enable it to drive itself.

The Automotive Engineering program prepares engineers to meet the need for advancements in the automotive sector by accelerating research and the development of alternative technologies, such as electric and fuel-cell driven vehicles. The University boasts new buildings, libraries and labs including the ACE Climatic Wind Tunnel and the Clean Energy Research Lab (CERL).

All students begin their programs in the same way, with a year of foundational education. This foundation year exposes students to the various specialization available, including automotive engineering. Complimentary studies such as business and management courses are available through the five-year Bachelor of Engineering and Management (Honours) program.

The University strives for the holistic development of students through education and enjoyment of campus life. Toronto is one of the places to be for aspiring Mechanical and Automotive engineers.


California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo / California Polytechnic State University, Pomona

Students of the universities pursue an education in Mechanical Engineering program. The College of Engineering has produced a winning Super mileage team as well as placing in the prestigious Formula SAE Collegiate Design Series making these programs worthy of consideration.

The Mechanical Engineering Department is home to the Donald E. Bentley Centre for Engineering Innovation. The center gives support to faculty, students along with visiting scholars for the advancement of research, education, and practice in mechanical engineering. A $6 million endowment to fund three professorships helps in supporting the center.

The focus of the Cal Poly Mechanical Engineering program is in education based on our “learn by doing” educational philosophy. As a result, the curriculum includes a significant number of hands-on laboratories, integration of design throughout, and a senior project requirement for all students.


Clemson University

Clemson Auto Engineering Car

Clemson University’s Department of Automotive Engineering is a magnet for the very best and brightest, and one of the ‘go-to’ places for top talent. Located within 160 miles of almost every NASCAR shop The South Carolina school has an active vehicle dynamics program with over 200 students pursuing graduate degrees in automotive engineering.

Research at Clemson University aims to improve technology which many experts see as essential in assisting carmakers to meet increasingly tough fuel economy and exhaust-emissions requirements the world over.


University of British Columbia

The University does not have a dedicated automotive engineering bachelors program, but Mechanical Engineering at UBC is well recognized and respected. The expansive staff of instructors and lecturers who have been well trained and are well poised to provide the best guidance to students who choose to pursue any of the engineering courses available, principally, mechanical engineering.

The alumni of the department have gone on to have very fulfilling careers in aerospace engineering, motorsports such as NASCAR and Formula One abroad, motor vehicle engineering and get to work with huge automotive companies such as Honda, BMW and General Motors in Detroit, Michigan.

Aspiring students are encouraged by the fact that continuing students and also other professional bodies rate the university very well. It also has excellent links with many employers, guaranteeing the students of proper employment upon graduation.

Students who have a passion for machines and especially vehicles are encouraged to look nowhere else but UBC for the best experience. Practical experience given to continuing students is also a plus with work study programs existing and also internships with huge manufacturing corporations provided for.


University of Montreal, Canada

The University of Montreal in Canada is a public research university located in the city of Quebec, Canada. The large university offers more than 650 graduate and undergraduate programs with an additional 70 doctorate programs. Faculty and students hail from diverse backgrounds and represent the best and brightest from all over the world.

Automotive engineering is available for specialization under the department of mechanical engineering. Students have the opportunity and environment to enhance their knowledge of mechanical engineering, electronic systems, control systems, development of software, and business.

Graduates of the Automotive Engineering degree program move the automotive industry into the 21st century and beyond.

The Masters in Engineering in Automotive Engineering degree is available for on-campus or online study providing the students with enough flexibility to study from wherever they are comfortable.


University of Maryland College Park

The University of Maryland’s Department of Mechanical Engineering is home to top ranked programs in Mechanical Engineering and Reliability Engineering that have a long and renown tradition of excellence. Aspiring automotive engineers and motorsport engineers can pursue their dreams in this university through studying Mechanical engineering. Placed in the top 20 nationwide by the US News and World Report and with doctorate programs which enjoy high NRC rankings, the Department of Mechanical engineering is one of the eight Departments within the A. James Clark School of Engineering. It has the largest student population amongst the eight academic departments within the A. James Clark School of Engineering with 1150 of them being undergraduates and 315 being graduates.

The different areas of study within the Department are advanced by various curricular divisions of the Department, which as of now time include:
• Design and Reliability of Systems,
• Electronic Products and Systems,
• Thermal, Fluid, and Energy Sciences, and
• Mechanics and Materials.

Additionally, the learning opportunities offered through a vibrant curriculum of undergraduate and graduate offerings, students are also provided extensive experiential learning prospects via the Terps Racing Program, Solar Decathlon and other competing teams, and undergraduate study experiences. Students are also given good provisions to make a difference internationally with programs such as Engineers Without Borders.


Arizona State University

Teaching staff at Arizona State bring real-world building experience, which they use with students and show them how they should apply structure hypothesis to real world situations.

State-of-the-art laboratories loaded with up and coming supplies used in business today, Arizona State is a haven for any aspiring automotive engineer. Research funding is available and several projects have gone on to nation platforms gaining the attention of major industry players.

Students discover how to come up with useful solutions to contemporary problems in the industrial and automotive world and come out more than well equipped to tackle the job market.


University of Florida

The baccalaureate program in mechanical engineering is fully accredited and offers a very comprehensive education with a robust foundation in mathematics, science and elementary engineering sciences.

Higher level courses are also available to develop specific interests in the engineering aspects of manufacturing, robotics, solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, thermal systems, dynamics and controls, and biomechanics.

The mechanical engineering graduate often benefits from a graduate degree to meet the complex needs of industry and government. As such, the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering participates in the combined B.S. /M.S. degree program which allows students to do graduate courses toward both degrees.

The combined-degree program reduces the cost for both degrees and enhances the student’s marketability for career advancement. Students who are interested in the program should contact the MAE department or its website for more information as the opportunities are endless.

Graduates are well equipped to work in a variety of industries or to pursue graduate study.


The University of Waterloo, Centre for Automotive Research

The Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research (WatCAR) conducts advanced research to further automotive innovation and competitiveness.

From active safety to automated driving, from light-weighting to advanced powertrains, 125 faculty researchers lead the largest university-based automotive activity in the country. Our leading-edge studies, for industry partners around the world, enhance vehicles, components and their materials with new approaches and integration of innovative technologies.

Every department in the Faculty of Engineering is involved in automotive and transportation systems research: Mechanical and Mechatronics, Electrical & Computer, Chemical, Systems Design, Civil & Environmental and Management Sciences.