A group of engineering students from across the country gathered on the University of Arizona campus this summer to help shape the future of self-driving cars. The students participated in the Cognitive and Autonomous Test Vehicle (CAT) program, researching the intelligence systems, security and reliability of a rapidly developing industry.
The 10-week program is hosted by the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and is part of the UA’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Consortium (UROC), where students from both community colleges and universities work with faculty and graduate students to put scientific concepts to real-world use. CAT was funded through a $415,000 National Science Foundation grant that began in 2020 and extends until 2024.
Each summer, participating students stay on campus, receive a $6,000 stipend, and earn letters of recommendation from faculty members toward their future goals. UROC programs help students pursue graduate education and include elements such as graduate school test workshops. ECE also hosted the UROC program PACT this past summer.
In addition to graduate school preparation, this year’s CAT students appreciated the skills they learned and the camaraderie formed between team members.
Across the 10 weeks, the students developed a deep understanding of intelligent transportation systems, learned how to read technical papers, and honed their communication skills in highly complex settings. The students were split into three groups to research areas such as verifying the veracity of a vehicle-to-vehicle messaging, continuous authentication for vehicle platooning using dynamic traffic, and lane detection.
"I always had an interest in working on issues in autonomous ground vehicles, vehicular security, and machine learning. The projects that were offered allowed for research in all of these areas," said mechanical engineering major John Dominguez-Trujillo. "With this, you are surrounded by amazing mentors and graduate students that consistently grow your knowledge and colleagues that are just as motivated as you. Given all this support, you are able to grow as a learner, researcher, and individual while building a solid foundation for your future ambitions."