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Formula Student Launches AI Competition

FS university of edinburgh

A student engineering competition held annually in the UK in which teams design, build, test and race small-scale racing cars will launch an AI competition this July. The competition is run by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and takes place every year at Silverstone Circuit in Northamptonshire. 

A new challenge for FS teams 

Recently celebrating its 20th year and taking over Silverstone only a few days after the British Grand Prix, Formula Student has its roots in motorsport engineering, but has steadily expanded the challenge to teams, and now encompasses project management, software development and commercial awareness to increase the skills for participants.

This year, the ever-popular event will launch an AI competition where teams will program prototype autonomous vehicles to undertake a series of driving challenges. A prototype vehicle has been built by our friends at Hypermotive near the Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground, where the prototype had its first trials.  

The vehicle provides an electrically powered drivetrain and an ‘autonomy solution agnostic’ approach, meaning FS-AI teams can fit their own sensor package, processing system and software platform to meet the requirements of the competition.

Embracing future technology

“Rapid developments in CAV technology and the new business models which will underpin their use could fundamentally change the way people and goods move around in the future, offering huge potential benefits in safety, efficiency and productivity,” said Simon Shapcott, Head of Research & Development, Centre for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles. “AI is a critical enabler of this future, and FS-AI will help nurture talent on which the UK’s industry, from exciting young startups to large corporations, will help realise this future for society.”

Formula Student UK Chairman Andrew Deakin and EUFS from Edinburgh University put the ADS-DV car through testing.

The competition is designed to keep up-to-date with the skills requirements of the UK AI sector. FS-AI was introduced to challenge student teams to develop an AI driver capable of controlling a purpose-designed FS car through a series of racing challenges. There is also a series of static event categories where students must consider real-world autonomous scenarios. 

“Formula Student has long been responsible for producing exceptional engineering experience for talented students before they enter employment, so it’s great to see the programme finally offering an AI-driven category,” said Alex Lawrence-Berkeley, CEO at Level Five. 

The stakes are high

The event attracts teams from all over the world and naturally the UK’s universities are strong contenders every year, however, the level of international competition is intense and category winners usually attract significant commercial sponsorship and high-level industry partnerships. This year’s FS-AI UK entry list includes Cardiff University, Coventry University, Oxford Brookes, University of Edinburgh and University of Bath Electric.

Sensors such as the Ouster OS1 LiDAR and processing platforms for autonomous vehicle control at high speeds, such as the Applus IDIADA IDAPT, are just two examples of how perception and decision-making can be employed in vehicles, in addition to a vehicle equipped with a suitable drive-by-wire system.