UC Santa Cruz Student Spends Summer at the Controls of a Driverless Car

Every Fall, students return to class with stories to tell about what they did over summer break. But how many can say they spent the summer at the controls of a driverless car? University of California, Santa Cruz student Yegeta Zeleke can.  

Thanks to a University of Arizona College of Engineering 10-week summer research program focused on driverless car technology, Zeleke and 11 other college students helped to advance the UA CAT vehicle, or cognitive and autonomous test vehicle. Zeleke worked on creating a new programming language that allows for faster programming of autonomous vehicles.

“This language adds a level of abstraction to programming autonomous vehicles, meaning the vehicle can be programmed easily by people with little knowledge of low-level details of the car’s operation,” Zeleke said.

The NSF program, Research Experiences for Undergraduates, or REU, provides opportunities for undergraduates to work with faculty mentors and graduate students on exciting research projects at universities throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. University of Arizona electrical and computer engineering professor Jonathan Sprinkle, an NSF CAREER Award winner who led the 2015 University of Arizona REU program, said the program was a good way to introduce students to research and graduate school.

“Participating in this REU program indeed helped me to think more about graduate school,” Zeleke said. “After going through the program, I am more inclined to go to grad school. I will definitely be applying to a few this year.” 

For more on the UA CAT vehicle program, visit http://catvehicle.arizona.edu/, and to learn about the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, visit http://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/