COLLABORATION

Australia races to the future with first student-built self-driving race car

SOURCE: Monash Motorsport

When it comes to driverless cars, Australia continues to lag behind other international players in the space, ranking 15th in the recent 2019 Autonomous Vehicle Readiness Index.

Monash University’s industry-backed motorsports team hopes to buck the trend, at least when it comes to driverless racing.

In a recent announcement, the team known as Monash Motorsport unveiled the country’s first-ever student-built self-driving race car, showcasing their expertise and knowledge in the latest innovations in driverless automotive technology.

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A competition-ready vehicle equipped with complex environment perception algorithms and robust actuation hardware, the M19-D will debut next year at the Formula Student driverless competition in Germany.

According to a press release, the self-driving race car took 200 undergraduate students three years to build and is the proud result of a multidisciplinary collaboration among the best and brightest across Monash University’s faculties.

M19-D self-driving race car
The M19-D is the result of a multidisciplinary collaboration among the best and brightest across Monash University’s faculties. Source: Monash Motorsport

The work is also thanks to continuous support from Monash Motorsport’s industry’s partners, who have continued to contribute to the success of the student-run enterprise in various ways. For example:

  • KTM supplies the team with engines and technical support;
  • Marand Precision Engineering sponsors CNC machining;
  • Wago provides expertise in electrical connections and electronic components;
  • Form-a-Sign provides a large range of advertisement services and specialised large-scale CNC routing for the team’s composite moulds;
  • Calm Aluminium supplies the team with the aluminium needed to manufacture components;
  • PhoenxPLM specialises in PLM and advanced manufacturing technologies, providing the team with its primary design software;
  • ABB provides the team with support in the EV charging space, as well as supplementing the team with financial resources; and
  • SMC provides materials for the pneumatic shifters, DRS and autonomous actuation.

In comments on the M19-D project, Monash Motorsport Chief Executive Officer Paras Bhutiani said: “The talented team at Monash designed and built its innovative and high-performance features to create the state-of-the-art driverless vehicle, which we’re excited to compete with in the upcoming Formula Student driverless competition in Germany next year,” he said.

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M19-D’s features include the following:

  • the ability to detect the racetrack and perceive the environment in real-time
  • an advanced laser scanner, also known as a LiDAR unit
  • a stereoscopic camera system that can perceive distance similar to the human eye, using artificial intelligence
  • a proven electric powertrain with more than 1000km of on-track testing
  • a GPS unit that can accurately locate the race car within a 10cm radius
  • an Emergency Braking System with complete redundancy in case of a vehicle fault
M19-D race car
The M19-D is a competition-ready driverless race car. Source: Monash Motorsport

Aryaman Pandav, who is Monash Motorsport’s Driverless Chief Engineer, said working on the self-driving race car and being a part of the university’s motorsports team have helped prepare him for a future in the field.

“I’ve been part of the Monash Motorsport team since 2017. Since joining, I’ve not only gained hands-on engineering experience, but also the strong leadership skills required to excel in my career and lead a team effectively,” he said.

“I’ve also created strong industry connections through networking with Monash alumni, partners and sponsors that will best prepare me for today’s workforce. Without being part of the Monash Motorsport team, this wouldn’t have been possible.”

Aryaman is currently doing a double degree in mechatronics engineering and science, and expects to complete at the end of 2020.

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Commenting on the M19-D project, Faculty of Engineering’s Director of Student Teams Dr Scott Wordley, said: “The students have done an outstanding job building the M19-D – the first student-made, fully autonomous race car in Australia. This is a true testament to their tenacity and commitment, and I’m looking forward to seeing their hard work come to life on Open Day.”

Professor Elizabeth Croft, who is the Dean of Engineering at Monash University, commended Monash Motorsport for their outstanding achievements in building the country’s first student-built driverless race car.

“Monash Motorsport students are highly capable designers and competitors, with almost two decades of experience in vehicle design innovation within a successful student-led enterprise,” she said.

“Student teams like Monash Motorsport offer outstanding opportunities for our students to develop technical, employability and entrepreneurial skills on a truly international scale,” she said.

“In debuting Australia’s first student-built autonomous race car, our students have also proven their capability to lead innovation in advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, computer vision and machine learning, well before they’ve even graduated,” she continued. 

“We’re incredibly proud of their efforts, and congratulate Monash Motorsport on this outstanding achievement.”