UA Engineering Hosts National Contest to Design Software for Autonomous Vehicle

Undergraduates invited to write software and compete for chance to test-drive it on the University of Arizona’s driverless car.

The University of Arizona is hosting a national competition for students to write code for the UA’s Cognitive and Autonomous Test, or CAT, vehicle. The free contest kicks off Jan. 31, 2017, and culminates in late April, when winning teams will travel to Tucson to test-drive their software aboard the car.

The registration deadline is Jan. 31. Register now! Late applications will be considered pending availability.

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation and MathWorks, the CAT Vehicle Challenge gives teams of college students in engineering and other fields access to cyberphysical systems, computer modeling and robotics programs, and a chance to pilot the CAT vehicle -- a driverless SUV tricked out with lasers, cameras and other sensor technologies -- using their own software.

“We’re giving potentially hundreds of college students who might not have access to a self-driving car -- or robotics of any kind -- the opportunity to remotely study and build technology for our CAT vehicle,” said Jonathan Sprinkle, Litton Industries John M. Leonis Distinguished Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and an expert in autonomous vehicle technology. 

For the past five summers, Sprinkle has brought groups of students to the UA to write code for the autonomous vehicle through the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, designed to give students from diverse backgrounds research experience at major universities.

“Many schools have great robotics programs, but students must be on campus to use them,” Sprinkle said. “With this challenge, we are making our CAT vehicle technology accessible to students working remotely.”

Students will receive sensor data from the CAT vehicle and use the MathWorks Simulink modeling program and NSF Cyber-Physical Systems Virtual Organization program to write software that can operate the car in a 3-D simulation environment.

“These students are working in highly sophisticated interactive systems,” Sprinkle noted. “They’re not just watching videos of the CAT vehicle on YouTube.”

Top picture: Jonathan Sprinkle at the wheel of the CAT vehicle.