Technology / University students take pole position in intelligent car competition

University students take pole position in intelligent car competition

Google and Volvo aren't the only ones working on intelligent cars. Matt Smith reports from the UK final of the NXP Cup.

As the car rounded the final corner and zoomed along the start-finish straight to set the day’s fastest time, the crowd clapped and cheered and the team celebrated their success. Later, they posed with their vehicle for photographers and looked forward to travelling across Europe for another challenge in the next round of the competition.

But this was not a scene from this month’s Chinese Grand Prix – this all took place at Imperial College London at the UK final of the NXP Cup, which tasks students from around the continent with building intelligent cars that can navigate a track as quickly as possible.

University of Sheffield team LineRider secured pole position on the day with a time of 12.6 seconds, and were joined by their colleagues Team Hotrod and the Technological Education Institute of Piraeus’s 0x2A in qualifying for the final in Munich on the 9th and 10th of May.

The UK qualifiers will join 16 teams from seven countries for the grand finale, all of whom have developed their own hardware and software from a base kit consisting of no more than a chassis, a development board and a camera. From there, they combined their teammates’ knowledge of different areas to build the fastest and smartest car possible.

“What is best is to have a combined team of computer scientists and mechanics,” NXP’s university programme manager Marion Thierry told Business Reporter. “And everything they are doing here, they can apply to real life. They are learning how it will be in the real world.”

LineRider’s winning run. Video from Erika Quah (@ErikaQuah).

In the aftermath of the event, LineRider’s Matthew Fergusson took some time out from his team’s celebrations and photo calls to discuss his experiences with the competition and why he believes the NXP Cup is valuable to students.

“We learn a lot,” he told Business Reporter. “You delve into every bit of the car. It is not just the electronic part. You get to do a bit everything and learn a lot that way.”

According to Fergusson, the team was surprised with the car’s speed after some issues during morning practice, but they believe it could go even faster in Munich. And all this hard work could yield not just silverware, but valuable experience for his future career.

“I am planning to go into testing software – software that works in conjunction with hardware,” he said of his post-university plans. “This builds right into that.”

The European final of the NXP Cup takes place in Munich on May 9th and 10th.