Students make electric car autonomous

During the spring, about forty third-year students from various engineering programmes at Chalmers have gathered around a common goal – to make an electric car self-driving.
​The students have worked with a variety of subprojects ranging from how to collect information from different sensors and how to make decisions about where and at what speed to drive, to the propulsion of the electric car and how it can be wirelessly charged. Other groups have worked to optimise the energy consumption of the car, and to build a virtual test environment to evaluate the car's behaviour in different traffic situations in a simulated environment before driving the car in real life.

“It was great fun to be part of a larger project and to collaborate with so many students from different programmes. This experience really lived up to my expectations. We have had a chance to practice several engineering skills – our group has worked with the motor control system, designed electrical circuits, as well as programming”, says Teodor Husmark, third-year student of the Automation and Mechatronics engineering programme.

The electric car, a Renault Twizy, was purchased by the Department of Electrical Engineering in Autumn 2017 for the purpose of being an experimental learning platform for both students and researchers. Research in the fields of computer vision, battery systems, electric drivetrains, charging infrastructure, and control and automation, all have a clear link to autonomous vehicles.

Knut Åkesson, Professor of automation, Department of Electrical Engineering, Chalmers“Self-driving vehicles is a very hot topic right now and many of our students will work within this field after graduation. It feels good to be able to offer students the opportunity to work with the latest technology in such a current field of research, while at the same time educating engineers that are attractive to the industry", says Knut Åkesson, project leader and Professor of automation at the Department of Electrical Engineering.

Demonstration of 'Autonomous Twizy'
In the end of May, the autonomous car went through its first real test before an audience, when the students presented their different subprojects during a demonstration on campus Johanneberg. Would the car stop for the obstacles that came in its way, would it understand when it is going to turn and brake, or would it come up with a route on its own?

The car was also on display for the public during an afternoon at the science centre Universeum. The students answered questions about everything from the technology of autonomous vehicles, the students’ experiences of studying at Chalmers, and what future they predict for self-driving cars. The ‘Autonomous Twizy’ was one of several student projects within automation and control, which was displayed at Universeum this day.

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Published: Thu 24 May 2018. Modified: Tue 12 Feb 2019