N.C. A&T Aggie Autonomous Team Completes Four-Year Competition

By Alexander Saunders / 06/18/2021 College of Engineering

Photo Caption:  "A3 student competitors and advisors pose for a photo in front of their converted autonomous vehicle during the year 4 phase I SAE AutoDrive Challenge in Mcity, Michigan."

Mcity, Michigan (June 18, 2021) – This past week, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University’s Aggie Autonomous Auto (A3) team completed the four-year Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) AutoDrive Challenge in Mcity, Michigan. Throughout the four-year competition, the team converted a standard electric vehicle to level-four autonomy. The team’s success earned N.C. A&T a spot to compete in Phase II of the SAE AutoDrive challenge.

In year two of the competition (2019), the team placed first overall nationally and second overall internationally. This year, the A3 team won third place in the combined dynamic challenges. The dynamic challenges tasked each team with autonomously navigating their vehicles to a series of eight locations and tested the precision in which each team’s vehicle demonstrated SAE Standard (J3016) Level-4 proof of concept by accurately and autonomously navigating to a specific destination, while handling the real-world situations such as loss of GPS signal.

“Our A3 team’s distinction in the combined dynamic challenges is a showcase of our student’s proficiency in coupling software and hardware to complete complicated tasks,” said Robin N. Coger, Ph.D., dean of the College of Engineering. “Their skills in this area are transferrable beyond autonomous vehicles, to applications ranging from robotics to manufacturing. We are immensely proud of the team and their faculty advisors.”

Ali Karimoddini, Ph.D., associate professor for electrical and computer engineering, was the Phase I lead faculty advisor for the challenge and serves as the director of the NC-CAV Center of Excellence on Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Technology and the Autonomous Cooperative Control of Emergent Systems of Systems.

“I’m inspired that the preparations of the students of our A3 teams paid off,” said Karimoddini. “Their skills and development were well integrated into this multidisciplinary project on development of autonomous vehicles.”

Karimoddini was joined by other faculty advisors Sun Yi, Ph.D., Professor Daniel Acree, Younho Seong, Ph.D., and Balakrishna Gokaraju, Ph.D., who all helped the students leverage their disciplines to contribute to the team projects.

“It's amazing how the team members adapted to the situations given the limited time and resources and incredible to see how quickly they ramped up to the competition,” said Sai Charan Dekkata, who recently earned his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from N.C. A&T within Yi’s research group. Over four years, the A3 student team members successfully collaborated throughout this competition, despite high turnover from graduation and navigating through a pandemic to compete in person in Detroit.

Dekkata has served as team captain since 2017. He adds, “Leading the team was an incredible experience and the footprints we leave will be of great use to the new team.”

Dekkata’s comment refers to the A&T students who will compete in Phase II of the SAE AutoDrive challenge, for which Yi will serve as the lead faculty advisor.

Congratulations to all the competitors throughout the AutoDrive competition. Their contributions have been another demonstration of the university’s strengths in autonomy.

Media Contact Information: uncomm@ncat.edu

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