The SAE AutoDrive Challenge is well underway! Velodyne LiDAR is honored to have its products featured so prominently in this inspiring and educational event hosted by SAE and GM at the GM Desert Proving Grounds. The energy here is palpable, and the student teams are impressive!
To kick things off on Monday, Velodyne gave its Official Supplier Presentation, in which company reps spoke about the history of Velodyne LiDAR and our products. We used the opportunity to promote the exciting opportunities at our company, a message that was well-received by the audience. Students expressed significant interest in working at Velodyne, as well as anticipation for our latest products. The students from these eight schools are some of the best and the brightest young minds, so we are thrilled to hear their enthusiasm for Velodyne. “I really liked the energy all of the presenters had. It made me want to work for the company and find out more information,” stated Ytulo Evans, Senior, North Carolina A&T.
Tuesday was the first day of competition. Velodyne had two company reps participate in judging presentations from each team on the far-reaching Social Responsibility considerations of introducing autonomous vehicles (AVs). These reports were extremely comprehensive, covering the economic, social, and environmental impact of AVs. Major themes that emerged included increased mobility for all, increased economic growth as the automotive and sensor industries expand, decrease of collision expenses, infrastructure changes to increase space and leisure, improved social interactions and productivity, reduced congestion and pollution, and safety. The students considered privacy, cyber security, geo-fencing/connectivity, the trucking industry, the changing job market, made recommendations for regulations and legislation, and envisioned a future of AVs. Their recommendation to industry was to continue to do outreach, education, partnerships, demos, and increase awareness and comfort with AVs. Many of the teams have become ambassadors for AVs within their communities, working with leaders, local governments, schools, and increasing exposure for the public. The students had clearly done significant amounts of research in order to provide deep, thoughtful answers to questions posed by the judges in regard to their presentations.
Meanwhile, another company rep from our Technical Solutions teams spent the day evaluating every teams’ car for Technical Inspection. This provided a great opportunity for interface with each of the teams and gather feedback about their use of our products. The teams have a variety of Velodyne LiDAR sensors: all have one VLP-16 donated by Velodyne, one team acquired and is using two HDL-32s, and another acquired and is using an HDL-64. “Velodyne LiDAR is so user-friendly and streamlined that when we realized the prowess of LiDAR in detecting objects, we were able to build a prototype in the matter of an evening. Velodyne LiDAR is the hero in the skies,” said Steven Daetong Lee, Master’s student, University of Waterloo.
Over 100 people have experienced Velodyne Virtual Reality (VR) in the main tent. “The live data feed from the VLP-32C in VR has been an enormous hit. People can teleport anywhere in the tent, stand beside anyone, and at any time look back and see themselves waving their arms. Following other people around in VR as they walk around the tent has blown people’s minds. The VLP-32C LiDAR image quality looks excellent, and many folks have been amazed to see that they can clearly count the individual fingers on their hand,” said Cheyenne Wolford, Visualization Technical Lead, Velodyne LiDAR Inc.
In the last days, we are looking forward to a social event with students, faculty, and sponsors, final dynamic events, and the Saturday Award Ceremony in Phoneix, Arizona. SAE has done a phenomenal job of organizing and hosting this event. Jamie Kanuff, University Program Coordinator, said “I love engaging with the students and seeing all the work they have put into the competition. For the first year, this competition things have been running very smoothly.”