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Edinburgh students triumph with driverless car

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As the drive for driverless cars accelerates, we can only expect that skilled engineers will bring about progress in efficiency and safety of autonomous technologies. Now students are playing their part too... 

Formula Student (FS), the world’s largest educational engineering contest, run annually by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, has recently become a force pushing the autonomous vehicle industry forward. For the past two decades, the judges for the Class 1 competition, where an actual car rather than a plan is submitted, rank the international teams in nine categories: acceleration, efficiency, sprint, endurance, skidpad, design, business, cost, and overall. For its 20th anniversary this year, the competition also challenged students in an artificial intelligence category.

Above: the kind of student race car that driverless technologies are looking to supercede. 

Only five teams took on the challenge. Under the FS Autonomous event, there were two possible entry categories: competing with your own autonomous car or competing with a vehicle provided by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers with software development.

The Augsburg StarkStrom Driverless team took the victory of the former category as well as the Automated Driving System Award for building a car that successfully completed 10 laps around the track.

The Edinburgh University Formula Student team won first place in the latter category as well as the Dynamic Driving Task Award for developing software that successfully guided a self-driving car around a racetrack.

FS hopes to shape young engineers by daring them to design and produce race cars—and more recently autonomous race cars. Demand for such expertise is slowly growing, especially as we see a rise in driverless vehicles on the road.

The UK government is reviewing driverless laws as we speak and by 2021 there might be autonomous cars without a safety driver on the streets. Earlier this week Transport operator Stagecoach, bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis Ltd (ADL) and technology firm Fusion Processing have announced that UK’s first driverless bus might be ready to go later this year. Driverless vehicles are no longer just theoretical, they are a likely reality.

Autonomous technology may increase road safety, journey efficiency, and use of space, so perhaps it is suiting that we support students who wish to pursue autonomous technologies and encourage them with competitions like Formula Student.

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