NC A&T University students create self-driving car, rank highly in international competition

Piedmont Triad News

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Are self-driving cars the way of the future? If so, college students from right here in the Piedmont are paving the way.

Last year, FOX8 first introduced you to Autonomous 3: a student-run organization at North Carolina A&T State University. The group built a self-driving car that got them recognized on an international level.

“Time to stop. Time to speed up or time to change lanes,” Sun Yi, A3 supervisor explained. “There’s a light to detect the pedestrian.”

Those are just some of the things this self-driving car created by undergraduate and graduate students at A&T can do. Since 2016, students have done research and trials to turn this average Chevy Volt into an autonomous car.

“You can think of this as kind of a brain,” Yi said as he pointed to the computer in the trunk for the car.

The up to 30 students involved have backgrounds ranging from engineering to business management. They’ve worked together to program the GPS and computer inside the car to get it to drive itself to a location with someone in it.

“The levels of autonomy (ranges from) level zero to level six. Our goal is to make the autonomy a level four and minimize the involvement of the human driver,” Yi said.

Pump your brakes, the car only drives up to 25 miles an hour and always must have a passenger inside of it. Yi said students have conducted at least 100 test runs over the past few years.

“A car went on the curb a couple of times, but no…crashes,” said Sai Charan Dekkata, a former A3 captain.

These guys are so good, they’ve ranked top 3 in the Society of Engineers Auto Drive Challenge, which is an international competition.

They’ve now qualified to move to phase 2.

“It’s a big deal,” Yi said.

Only 10 universities across the U.S and Canada qualified for this round. In the previous phase, there were only eight teams that qualified.

“It was a huge achievement as far as what I know because getting through year one, out of 44 teams our teams got picked,” Dekkata said.

As for how soon cars like this one could be on the road?

“Nobody has the answer. We are building the future together, and we are raising the students to educate them to make good future,” Yi said.

The goal is to continue building the car until it’s as autonomous as possible.

Dekkata said the tools he learned on the Autonomous 3 team are what led him to his current job at the University of Michigan.

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