EXCLUSIVE: High-school students build connected, autonomous vehicles in a few hours at ITS America 2016 San Jose


As part of an active project to bridge the growing skills gap in ITS, high-school students were given the opportunity to show of their skills this week (June 13-15), at ITS America 2016 San Jose, by building their own connected, autonomous vehicles.

The cars were made using 3D-printed parts, on-board sensors and Raspberry Pi circuit boards, which the students were able to program using open-source Linux code, to perform simple autonomous maneuvers alone, and more complex ones that involved interaction with other vehicles, such as platooning and stopping to allow another vehicle to pass.

Monday’s (June 13) keynote speaker Seval Oz (above right), chief executive officer of Continental Intelligent Transportation Systems took time out to visit the workshop, which she saw as an essential part of the future of transportation. “It’s so important that these students are able to get involved in learning how to code,” she told Traffic Technology Today. “Projects like this are giving them skills that are going to be vital in the workplace.”

Monday’s event was organized by Square One, a nonprofit education network that aims to create and fund practical learning opportunities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), and Mobile Comply, a for-profit education company focused on providing companies with the skills they need today. Mobile Comply built the first ever connected vehicle credentialing program, for SA International.

“Where are you going to get the workforce of tomorrow? Because you don’t have the workforce today,” said Elaina Farnsworth (below), CEO of Mobile Comply. “Never before has there been such a big skills gap in transportation. So in order to bridge that gap we have partnerships with companies like Square One and Lear and SA International and Econolite, to get the workforce of the future and the workforce of today.”

The 20 students came from Apollo High School in San Jose and were led in the project by four Michigan high-school graduates who have already gained university scholarships off the back of their work and will take up their places later this year.

The completed vehicles were demonstrated by the students on the main stage in the Grand Ballroom at the McEnery Convention Center (below), ahead of the second keynote speech, from Jim Zemlin, executive director of The Linux Foundation, yesterday (June 14) morning.

“In four short hours these kids built cars that have the ability to talk to one another and other things around them,” said Farnsworth. “Never before has the transportation industry seen such a rapid convergence of so many technologies, never before has there been such a sense of urgency to bridge that knowledge gap. It takes practical hands-on training to develop the workforce that you need. Through our education and training we can bring the future to you and to your workforce today. We lead the way in V2X high-school programs, but we also train adults, so they can develp and deliver the smart technologies of tomorrow. We educate your workforce.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).