Rachel Powers: Selecting Sensors for Autonomous Vehicles

University of Arizona 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 national summer research program focused on driverless car technology, electrical and computer engineering senior Rachel Powers had a head start this semester expanding her skill set. And the experience, supported by the National Science Foundation, strengthened her resolve to pursue a graduate degree. 

“This is a great way to bridge the gap between what you learn in the classroom and how engineers solve problems in the real world,” Powers said. “I came into the program with some experience with knowledge-based systems and their applications to robotics, but nothing on this scale.” 

The NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates, or REU, program provides opportunities for students from colleges throughout the United States and Puerto Rico to work on exciting projects with faculty mentors and graduate students at host universities. As part of the University of Arizona’s REU, Powers and seven other students, worked on teams of two or three for 10 weeks advancing the University’s cognitive and autonomous test (CAT) vehicle.

Powers, who was one of only two UA students in the CAT REU program, performed cost-benefit analyses of autonomous vehicle sensors to determine the most viable consumer options. 

“Finding the best cost-performance balance will help make autonomous vehicle technology accessible to more people,” Powers said. 

The University of Arizona 2014 REU program was led by Jonathan Sprinkle, an NSF Career Award winner and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. 


For more on the UA CAT vehicle program, visit http://catvehicle.arizona.edu/

To learn about the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, visit http://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/

Associate professor Jonathan Sprinkle, University of Arizona College of Engineering