Amanda Pyryt: Switched Control of an Autonomous Car

University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Student Spends Summer at the Controls of a Driverless Car

College students across the country have rounded the halfway point of the fall 2014 semester and are settling in for the push to the finish. Thanks to a UA College of Engineering summer research program focused on driverless car technology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, junior Amanda Pyryt had a head start this semester expanding her skill set. And the experience strengthened her resolve to pursue a graduate degree. 

As part of a National Science Foundation program, Pyryt and seven other college students, working in teams of two or three, spent 10 weeks helping advance the University of Arizona’s CAT vehicle, or cognitive and autonomous test vehicle. 

The NSF program, Research Experiences for Undergraduates, or REU, provides opportunities for undergraduates to work on exciting research projects with faculty mentors and graduate students at universities throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. 

“Students who are interested in learning about research in their area of interest and students who are interested in getting a better idea of what to expect in graduate school will definitely benefit from the REU program,” said Pyryt, who is majoring in computer science.  
Pyryt came into the 2014 University of Arizona REU program -- led by Jonathan Sprinkle, an NSF Career Award winner and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering -- with no previous experience in autonomous vehicle technology. She returned to her honors college having designed a complicated switched-control system, which allows a vehicle’s central system containing multiple controllers to switch from one controller to another depending on the environment and objectives. 

“I had only basic programming skills acquired from my internship in a different research area and from classes,” said Pyryt, adding that she also improved her skills working in a team environment and gained confidence asking for help in difficult situations. 


For more on the UA CAT vehicle program, visit

To learn about the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, visit

Associate professor Jonathan Sprinkle, University of Arizona College of Engineering

Amanda Pyryt, University of Maryland Baltimore County