Costa Rican College Students Develop Autonomous Vehicle Prototype and Win International Award

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    During the last decade, autonomous transportation has become one of the main focuses for the automotive industry. From traditional companies like Ford and Mercedes Benz, to tech companies like Google and Uber looking to get ahead.

    However, since this past week, Costa Rica also took a step in that direction. This, thanks to a prototype developed by a group of students from the Technological Institute of Costa Rica (TEC).

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    By applying cameras and sensors to a golf cart, the university students won the Mobility Challenge, a contest organized by the Purdy Group, with the aim of developing solutions. In its first edition, the challenge revolved around the automated delivery of parcels.

    A&E Innovation

    In this way, the team baptized as A&E Innovation, kept the prize of $ 2,500 with which they will seek to improve said prototype. The expectation is to be able to develop it commercially.  “It has been very impressive because we are students and in the courses we see very cool things but, by already implementing it at this level, it is something incredible. Getting this to work is already a win,” the students commented.

    How does it work?

    The representative of the winning team explained that the prototype named “Tech to Go” has a server who directs the small vehicle. This receives the information of the road through cameras and proximity sensors placed at strategic points, mainly in front of it.

    In this way, the cart can know if there is an obstacle ahead, or if it must move forward. However, it also has a security system operated by means of QR codes and combination keyboard which allows the user to open their delivery.

    They commented that the most difficult challenge was to ensure the correct operation of the programming. This, in large part to the limited time they had. However, that factor was on purpose.

    One of the features that the Purdy Group decided to implement was the one-month limit for the two finalists to be able to develop their prototypes. This, with the aim of offering a greater sense of urgency to competitors, in order for them to implement more feasible ideas. This was explained by the Business Development manager, Luis Diego Acuña, who highlighted the fact that the two finalist teams were made up of university students.

    Ideas that work

    “What we are going to find here is an idea that works. That, commercially, can be developed. Thus, you can coordinate with them to debug that technology and define what is required to develop it so that it is also safer and more reliable.

    “It has come to our attention that, despite being an open contest, the finalists are young adults who have recently graduated or are in the process of graduating in technology areas. Today, many do not have support, but now, innovative solutions can be developed”, he highlighted.

    For example, he mentioned the project that took second place, which implemented parts developed thanks to a 3D printer, with which components were incorporated to seek automation of the vehicle.

    The contest

    The activity, developed by the Purdy Group, received a total of 14 proposals in September of last year. The jury, made up of people from both academia and business, chose the four ideas with the greatest potential.

    After a presentation to the jury, the total number of participants was reduced to two, who presented their prototypes. However, they both only had a month to put their concepts into practice. The automotive company even collaborated with the purchase of parts, some of which had to be imported, as they were not available in Costa Rica.

    It was mentioned that the company will continue to support these initiatives, in pursuit of seeking greater mobility solutions. Precisely, worldwide, the interest in autonomous vehicles has grown vertiginously in the last decade.

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