“The research opportunities, potential co-op opportunities it opened up and the skillsets they provided— the technical skillsets they could train me in — and because it was just cool, self-driving cars,” he said. “That’s what made a Floridian like me drive 18 hours or over 1,000 miles to Flint, Michigan to be able to participate in that.”
He said he likes the changes SAE made to the challenge so far. He agreed that starting with the cart allows the team to put a greater focus on perception and gathering data.
“Perception is one of the most critical things to make sure the car can drive itself,” Wakefield said.
Team captain and graduate student Tanmay Panchal said having the cart will allow the team to build up its knowledge and do a lot of the work in simulation.
“If you do Year 1 right, then your software will be ready to be deployed on the active car with some changes,” he said, which will allow more time for testing.
He said the first year should be used for developing while the second should be used for refining.
This is Panchal’s first time participating in AutoDrive. He said he joined to gain experience with industry tools.
Alayna Wanless (‘24, EE) is also new to the team. She helps research and writes reports for the innovation challenges as a member of the mobility innovation team.
“I think it’s super exciting to be even a small part of developing such new and exciting technology,” she said. “I knew the AutoDrive team would be a great way to challenge myself and learn more about up-and-coming tech that we may not learn about in class. It’s a topic I’ve been interested in since I decided to pursue engineering, and the ability to get this kind of experience while still in college is great.”
She said not having the car is a little strange, but it helps the team plan better for the future.
“For example, the project I am working on requires us to consider how to optimize certain aspects of our vehicle design before even working on it,” Wanless said. “This means that we will have an excellent idea of how to best implement certain instruments as soon as we can.”
The students said participating in AutoDrive is great because of the opportunities students get, such as expanding their research skills, learning industry tools and networking with event sponsors.
“It’s kind of continuing the legacy of Kettering as an automotive school but in a new way with self-driving cars,” Wakefield said. “It opens up the world in terms of opportunities for students. These skills, while you could go into the self-driving car industry, you could also transfer that to Amazon, Google, IBM and other IT companies because it’s more software engineering, more computer science, embedded systems, computer engineering compared to more traditional engineering labs like with mechanical engineering, industrial engineering and those kinds of things. It allows Kettering to stay strong with an automotive culture, but expand with new industries that have come up in the past 100 years.”