Undergraduate researchers developing testbed for self-driving vehicles in urban environments

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Undergraduate researchers developing testbed for self-driving vehicles in urban environments

Combining simulations and an experimental setup, a Mountaintop Project team led by Prof. Cristian-Ioan Vasile investigates how sources of “complex behavior” in city settings affect decision-making capabilities of AVs.

There’s a good chance that in the next decade, autonomous vehicles (AVs) will navigate the streets around Lehigh’s campus in South Bethlehem.

According to a recent report from market and consumer data company Statista, industry forecasts predict that by 2030, one in every 10 new vehicles produced globally will be fully automated.

For now, “going driverless” on Morton Street or up to the Mountaintop Campus is possible through simulations being developed as part of a Mountaintop Project focused on testing and improving the reliability of AVs.

Cristian-Ioan Vasile, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics, launched the project in Summer 2020 and serves as faculty mentor.

Through the Mountaintop Project program, faculty and students work together as partners and co-creators to produce impactful research on a wide variety of topics. This past summer, topics ranged from designing renewable energy solutions for a developing nation to the use of virtual reality in reducing racial biases to paving the way for smarter and safer autonomous vehicles.

“Self-driving cars are a hot topic, but understanding where we need to innovate, and the challenges that we need to overcome goes a long way toward redefining transportation in terms of mobility and accessibility,” says Vasile, who also has a courtesy appointment in the computer science and engineering department.

There’s a rising need for engineers and programmers to further develop the safety of AVs, he says, and the project gives students the opportunity to partner with Vasile to study how the technology can be translated into more secure and accessible transportation in the future.

Read full article by Deirdre Kelshaw ’22 is a student writer for the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, published in RCEAS News