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University of Waterloo team enters "Auto Drive Challenge" to develop self-driving car

Last Updated Apr 14, 2017 at 11:33 pm EDT

Courtesy of University of Waterloo.

The University of Waterloo has entered into a competition to create a self-driving car against the University of Toronto and six American universities.

The “Auto Drive Challenge” encourages undergraduate teams to develop a self-driving car by April of 2020.

The teams are given a Chevrolet Bolt, computers and some sensors to help complete their task.

“The students will attach the sensors to the car, hook them up to some computers in the trunk, and then write a whole lot of software to understand the data from the sensors, and then decide where the car should go,” explains University of Waterloo Professor Derek Rayside, who is a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Although the University of Waterloo is competing against one other Canadian university, the University of Toronto, Professor Rayside says he and Tim Barefoot, from the University of Toronto, have a “gentleman’s agreement” to take first and second place.

“We’re not going to worry too much about which of us gets one, and which of us gets two. Really, we are on the same page, our job is to do research and to teach, and we use competition like this to stoke the students to do their best. But the goal is really the learning and pushing the research forward,” says Professor Rayside.

Since the student team leaders posted an informal announcement about the competition, he says they have had nearly 100 students apply to be on the teams.

“Right now, for the proposal writing phase we had eight students, but these teams are going to scale up to somewhere between 50 and 100. There’s a huge amount of work that needs to be done, and we’re gonna need a lot of people.”

The prize of winning the competition is essentially only bragging rights, but Professor Rayside expressed the importance of competitions like this for undergraduate students.

“Competitions like the ‘Auto Drive Competition’ provide amazing opportunities for students to really apply and integrate their learning in a real, practical, industrial complex. So, this is not a small class project, this is a three year project to build an autonomous vehicle, like a complete vehicle. So these are really exciting opportunities to complement the classroom education and for students to learn and apply the cutting edge research done at our Canadian universities.”