28 May 2024

Self Driving Challenge: an update

Since February, an enthusiastic Fontys ICT student team has been working on the RDW's Self Driving Challenge (SDC). In this unique challenge, students get the chance to develop their skills in autonomous driving and compete against each other. To do so, they have to have a self-driving vehicle perform tasks on a circuit.

That the challenge is also a real challenge is clear: the process leading up to the two milestones of the SDC (the test and final day) is not flawless. Sieuwe Elferink, student and project lead of the Fontys team, says: "The SDC is an incredibly challenging project. In a few months, we have to build a fully autonomous vehicle. For this we have limited resources (people and budget), while we are actually doing the same as, say, a Tesla that takes years to do this. From nothing, we build a complete vehicle with software with both high-level (an AI system that makes the decisions) and low-level code (software that controls the steering and braking system, for example). Almost impossible in such a short time. The company Holk Metaal helped us with some mechanical parts, but we are doing the rest ourselves."

The aim of the challenge is to meet the RDW's knowledge needs. The organisation deals with vehicle safety and sustainability; from design to dismantling or export. Based on the knowledge shared by the students, they can learn what to look out for in the quality car manufacturers deliver. "It is very cool that our knowledge is going to be directly applied in practice. The RDW uses our knowledge and information to improve their own services and keep Dutch roads safe. So this is how we contribute to society," Sieuwe said.

On Friday, May 17th, the test day took place. The team knew beforehand that they were not going to succeed in driving fully autonomous that day. Sieuwe: "But we were able to do a lot of testing which meant we still reached a milestone. In the beginning, we mainly did some repairs to the vehicle. Then it was time to take to the track and we did manage to fully test our vehicle using remote control. This allowed us to validate that the vehicle is running and reliable. In addition, our emergency stop works perfectly, and the vehicle has been inspected according to the rules of the challenge. In short: the basics are in place and then it doesn't matter that not everything goes smoothly."

A professional team
"During the test day, we heard that the RDW is impressed by our team. We shared our interim learnings, receiving feedback that they find our simulation environment very impressive. This iterative environment, created in AI, recognises the road and traffic situations. This will be important during the final day on 14 June."

Sieuwe says the student team started working professionally from day one. "We immediately made a division of tasks with tight planning. In this, we also indicated intermediate milestones so that we are actually working towards something. This increases team spirit and ensures that we stay focused on the end goal: winning the final. How cool would it be to be able to say you won over other colleges and universities!"

The team is incredibly looking forward to finals day. Following the results of the test day, the students managed to get the AI environment fully working. In other words, the road can be recognised and the vehicle should now stay between the lines of the road without any problems. Elferink: "We will go back to the test track one more time and then we will be ready. We are very motivated and the team spirit is there. On the final day, everything comes together: months of work is in it. It's going to be very cool anyway. We push the button and then don't get to do anything else. I basically see it the same as launching a rocket: at some point you have to let go and the question is: does it work or not? We'll see; our team is confident."

Want to know more about the challenge? Read this earlier publication.

Also watch this video introducing the team:

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