University of Illinois 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 Illinois student Sam Taylor can. 

Thanks to a University of Arizona College of Engineering 10-week summer research program focused on driverless car technology, Taylor and 11 other college students helped to advance the UA CAT vehicle, or cognitive and autonomous test vehicle. Taylor researched ways a driverless car can function in stop-and-go traffic with inexpensive technology, such as with the use of low-cost cameras.

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.

“Before this summer, I knew nothing about cognitive radio, and only knew autonomous systems on a very superficial level,” Taylor said. “This experience has been a great introduction into scholarly and graduate work.”

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.

“This program has really enforced the idea of going to graduate school for a master’s degree, but it has also presented PhD work in a brand new light, making me reconsider whether I want to go into industry in a few years, or continue doing research,” Taylor said.

For more on the UA CAT vehicle program, visit, and to learn about the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, visit