UofA's driverless CAT vehicle takes students for a spin

No brakes, no steering wheel, no gas pedal, and no driver. The concept of a driverless car has been one of the more popular initiatives at Google, and this summer, students at the University of Arizona worked on their own version of a self-driving car in an effort to advance driverless technology.

CAT car UoA
The vehicle sensors are tracking Carlos’s path through the parking lot, and then follow that trajectory at slow speed.

Eight engineering and computer science undergraduates from throughout the United States came together and have been working this summer on their own self-driving car. Using the UA’s Cognitive and Autonomous Test, or CAT, vehicle, they were able to put their research to the test.
The program was run by electrical and computer engineering associate professor Jonathan Sprinkle, who won an NSF Career Award in 2013 and whose research in complex autonomous systems is internationally recognized. “The vehicle is equipped to be a full-sized robot. The student researchers developed projects over the 10 week summer program that exercised new areas of research in autonomy,” Sprinkle said.
The University’s Cognitive and Autonomous Test (CAT) has been a work in progress for the past few years.
“This included new ways to use vehicle sensors and compare their effectiveness to their costs. Other groups focused on how to utilize the vehicle in experiments with high school students for outreach; advanced controller design to allow the vehicle to drive more safely, and methods to keep the vehicle connected to the cloud while it is driving,” Sprinkle continues.
The program considers applicants who are undergraduate students from all over the country, including from University of Arizona. “The true contribution of the research program is to give the undergraduate researchers an opportunity to experience life as a graduate student, and to work on problems that might not be available to them in their home institutions,” Sprinkle said. “Most importantly, this project encourages the students to think big about how they can change the world.”
The summer program ended with the students taking the car for a spin – or maybe the other way around.
Learn more about the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) and the CAT Vehicle program here.
 Images provided by Haris Volos of Arizona