Driverless race car goes to poll position

Students at Monash University have demonstrated Australia’s first student-built, fully autonomous race car.

The students are part of the Monash Motorsport team, and have designed the car to compete against Formula Student teams in the driverless category.

To get the car onto the track, the students have utilised computer-vision algorithms and developed robust actuation hardware.

Demonstrated at Monash University’s Open Day earlier in August, the team are trialling the car ahead of the Formula Student driverless competition in Germany in 2020.

For Monash Motorsport’s chief executive officer, the process of getting the car onto the tarmac has been a demonstration of the capabilities of the student body.

“We first began development on the M19-D way back in 2016, with over 200 undergraduate students from Monash working tirelessly to bring it to fruition. The talented team at Monash designed and built its innovative and high-performance features to create the state-of-the-art driverless vehicle,” said Para Bhutiani.

So far, the team have put the car through its paces with 1000km of on-track testing of the electric powertrain. During these trials, the car’s features have been examined. These include an advanced laser scanner, a stereoscopic camera system, a GPS unit accurate to 10cm, and the real-time perception of the race track.

While the ultimate goal is of course first place on the podium next year, the project has allowed the students to develop industry connections

“I’ve also created strong industry connections through networking with Monash alumni, partners and sponsors that will best prepare me for today’s workforce. Without being part of the Monash Motorsport team, this wouldn’t have been possible,” said driverless chief engineer, Aryaman Pandav.

The potential for the skills the students learn in the process of competing to go on to prepare them for the workforce is not lost on the supervising faculty.

“In debuting Australia’s first student-built autonomous race car, our students have also proven their capability to lead innovation in advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, computer vision and machine learning, well before they’ve even graduated,” said dean of engineering, Professor Elizabeth Croft.