Mechatronics engineering, mobile robotics, artificial intelligence, and more: Queen’s Engineering undergraduate students and faculty will have a chance to demonstrate their expertise and skills in the prestigious SAE AutoDrive Challenge II.

Queen’s joins nine other leading North American engineering schools selected by SAE and General Motors to compete in this second AutoDrive Challenge series. Participating university teams will develop and demonstrate an autonomous vehicle that can navigate urban driving courses.

Autonomous vehicle test.
Field testing of autonomous driving using an all-terrain vehicle. Photo courtesy Ingenuity Labs.

“Our selection speaks to our core strengths in mechatronics and robotics, as well as the kind of creativity, inspiration and drive our undergraduate students bring to the table,” says Brian Surgenor, Vice-Dean at Queen’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, and speaking as the Director of the new program in Mechatronics and Robotics Engineering (MRE).

“The timing of our participation in AutoDrive Challenge couldn’t be more ideal – the incoming cohort for the MRE program will benefit from this unique opportunity to work on the cutting edge of autonomous vehicle technology. “

The competition will also be a showcase for Ingenuity Labs, a Queen’s-based hub specializing in artificial intelligence, robotics, and human-machine interaction research.

“Off-road vehicles – and autonomous driving -- are some of the many areas that Ingenuity Labs was founded to focus on,” says Josh Marshall, Director at Ingenuity Labs. “We have some of the continent’s leading researchers, both at the faculty and graduate student level, working on exactly these kinds of challenges. The AutoDrive Challenge will be all about the students, but we are all looking forward to supporting them in their learning journey.”

The Challenge will unfold over four years, with each year presenting a different milestone, with students also taking SAE professional development courses. The challenges will have students applying their knowledge and exploring the technical sides of autonomous driving – both hardware and software – while remaining mindful of the social impact and challenges of vehicular autonomy. Students will be modifying a Chevrolet Bolt EUV electric vehicle, provided by General Motors.

There will be no shortage of opportunities for Queen’s Engineering students looking to work on the cutting edge of vehicular autonomy: dozens of positions will be created, covering everything from software development, machine learning, computer vision, vehicle control, the mechanics of sensors and integration, and even managing safety and reliability issues.

“Challenge is an excellent word for this experience – this will challenge our students, and push them to learn, adapt, and excel,” says Kevin Deluzio, Dean at Queen’s Engineering. “I’m proud that we were selected to stand shoulder to shoulder with some of North America’s leading engineering schools as part of this challenge. I know that our students will show remarkable innovation, determination and persistence over the next four years.”

“Congratulations to Queen’s Engineering on being chosen for this prestigious competition! It’s truly a testament to the incredible talent among Queen’s student population and its faculty to be selected,” says Mayor Bryan Paterson. “As a City, we continue to encourage a culture of innovation, and so it’s very exciting to see Queen’s participate in this challenge and have an opportunity to make contributions to this cutting-edge field.”   

Queen’s place in the SAE AutoDrive Challenge II was announced on Monday, April 12. It is one of two Canadian schools – with the University of Toronto – joining a field of eight U.S. universities including Kettering, Michigan Tech, North Carolina A&T, Ohio State, Penn State, Texas A&M, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Virginia Tech.

A team of faculty, undergraduate and graduate students will be assembled over the course of the summer with work on the four-year competition beginning in earnest in September.  The Chevrolet Bolt is set to arrive in the Summer of 2022.