Edinburgh University wins autonomous Formula Student challenge

Written by: Tom Austin-Morgan | Published:

A team from the University of Edinburgh has taken first place at the UK’s first autonomous race car contest.

Competing at Formula Student, the world’s largest educational engineering contest, a multidisciplinary team of more than 50 members, joined over 3000 other students at Silverstone for the annual contest.

Formula Student challenges university teams from around the world to each design, build and race a single-seat race car. This year an additional competition, Formula Student - Artificial Intelligence (FS-AI), was added, tasking students with developing AI software for a driverless race car.

Edinburgh-based Mapix technologies provided mentoring and technical support to the team. It also provided hardware, including a Velodyne VLP-16 PUCK – a 360° horizontal field-of-view LiDAR sensor with a 100m range, 16 laser channels and up to 600,000 points per second. This sensor was installed on a self-driving car provided by the contest organisers, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

“The contest is a fantastic and proven conduit for students looking to begin careers in the automotive industry,” said Gert Riemersma, CEO of Mapix technologies. “Now, with more and more manufacturers harnessing the potential of autonomous technology, having an element of the contest dedicated to driverless software has massive relevance.”

A first round data collection lap was carried out before the car embarked on its maiden, fully autonomous circuit as part of the ‘dynamic events’ aspect of the challenge.

Despite the car itself only being unveiled the week of the event and the Edinburgh team having only three days to familiarise themselves with it, they completed a full lap of the custom designed ‘Track Drive’ circuit.

In addition to this, a trio of ‘static events’ tested the team’s commercial skills and knowledge. These included a design presentation, a business presentation and an overview of real-world autonomous vehicles. Competing in all three events, Edinburgh University Formula Student scored the most points in the ‘Dynamic Driver Test’ (software-only) class.

For their performance across both static and dynamic tests, the team was awarded best in class, fending off competition from around the world. Having solidified their leading position at the UK’s first-ever driverless race car competition, they are already looking ahead to sustain it next year.

Team member Oliver Day, who has just finished his first year at the University, said: “Formula Student has been a truly amazing journey for me. It has allowed me to apply the ideas I’ve learned in the classroom on a real-world project and gain experience in hands-on system design and teamwork. Seeing the car move by itself for the first time was thrilling and made all the hard work worth it. Now I am all the more excited to see how far we can go next year.”


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