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“Look! No Hands!” Self driving car research at UA

Engineering students sharpen programming skills
Posted at 2:49 PM, Aug 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-06 21:36:59-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - Some people love to drive, others would rather just be a passenger along for the ride. For those people there's the potential of self driving cars.

University of Arizona engineering students, and students visiting from other schools are learning how to bring self driving cars closer to routine reality.

Even car lovers are unlikely to love the hassles of the day to day place to place driving.

Someday, what's been going on in a UA parking lot could come to your rescue.

UA engineering students are working along with engineering students from other schools. They're learning different ways to program this car to move you safely through the world, hands-free and accident free.

One experiment challenges the car to keep a safe distance from another car that starts and stops.

Notre Dame engineering student Chris Kreienkamp had enough faith in his programming to use his car as the car in front.

"We ran hours and hours of simulation before I felt comfortable with it."

The cars do have safety drivers but some students get the chance to learn self-driving programming long before they're old enough for a driver's license.

UA adapted the car control software so 4th graders can practice with a Lego robot but sometimes even the 4th graders get to practice with the full sized car. UA engineering student Riley Wagner was in 7th grade when she started programming to control small models. It would have been even cooler back then to work with a real car.

"I think I would be really excited to do it and I think it would have been a definite treat to be able to see something like that happen in real life."

When we're talking about the full potential of self driving cars we're not just talking about one car with the robotics bound up in that one vehicle. We're talking about cars talking to each other and cars that can communicate with the intersections and the roadways.

New Jersey Institute of Technology student Brandon Dominique is working on how to help self driving cars talk to each other.

"Like there's a car right next to here, for example. That car could tell this car right here, like, 'Hey, I'm about to make a left turn, please be careful, I'm about to do this."

And while there are cars with some self-driving tech already there's much more to do to perfect the technology and lower the cost.