SAE International AutoDrive Challenge Year One is a Wrap: Teams Automate with Velodyne LiDAR

Events for the first year of the self-driving competition were
held in GM’s Desert Proving Grounds facility

SAN JOSE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#GM–Between April 30th and May 5th, eight university
teams participated in the AutoDrive Challenge sponsored by General
Motors and SAE International. Hosted at General Motors’ Desert Proving
Grounds in Yuma, Arizona, the week’s events represented the culmination
of teams’ efforts over the first year of what will be a three-year
project to turn a Chevrolet Bolt EV into a self-driving car.

The first day of competition included static events, during which teams
were judged on their Concept Designs and presentations of the Social
Responsibility considerations related to the advent of self-driving
vehicles. As a key supplier for the event, Velodyne LiDAR sent company
representatives to gather feedback from student teams, not only about
the crucial role LiDAR technology has in achieving autonomy, but on the
continued need for public outreach and education about the technological
foundations and societal impacts of self-driving vehicles.

Student participants anticipated far-ranging benefits of autonomous
vehicles (AVs). “I think AVs will give us back some of that time we have
lost – human stuff, togetherness, time with families,” commented Karreem
Hogan of North Carolina A&T State University. Robert Adragna from the
University of Toronto stated, “[In Toronto] we’re dealing with a lot of
urban sprawl challenges, and I know many people who literally spend
three hours a day – ninety minutes into the city and ninety minutes out
– just wasting so much time. And the time could be spent doing so many
other things that are integral to ensuring that people have a high
quality of life.”

On subsequent days, teams brought their vehicles out of the garage to
engage in dynamic challenges on the proving ground’s tracks. Objectives
in these events included having vehicles autonomously detect and respond
to stop signs, steer through a winding course, and change lanes to avoid
objects in the roadway. The LiDAR sensors supplied by Velodyne LiDAR
played the foundational role in allowing teams to perform these tasks.
“The role of LiDAR is to bring your environment to life. To see in 3D,”
Hogan stated. “Camera has a role, but LiDAR gives us that definitive
three-dimensional view of everything that’s around us.” Adragna added,
“You can’t really match the accuracy that you get from a sensor like
this, and in my opinion, you need this to make sure that all the social
benefits of self-driving cars can actually (happen).”

The University of Toronto team, led by faculty advisor Angela Schoellig,
won the overall competition in year one of the Challenge. Teams from
Texas A&M and Virginia Tech finished second and third overall,
respectively. The other teams competing included Waterloo University,
Michigan State University, Michigan Tech University, Kettering
University, and North Carolina A&T State University.


Velodyne LiDAR
Cesar A. Montero Orozco