Visitors to the MIRA Technology Institute (MTI) have been greeted by the sight of a unique driverless car currently situated in its lobby. The prototype robotic AI vehicle has been created to add a new dimension to the prestigious international Formula Student competition, operated by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), and now in its 21st year. 

An engineering design project for undergraduates, FS-AI (Formula Student – Artificial Intelligence) challenges students to design and build an AI driver or AI vehicles and compete in timed trials at Silverstone race circuit. The prototype is currently on display to inspire future generations of automotive engineers as they arrive at the MTI building for training sessions and workshops.

IMechE developed this additional element to its original Formula Student static and dynamic categories in response to advice from the Government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles. Formula Student Project Manager, Lucy Killington said, “Students are provided with a basic self-driving race car prototype and are challenged to develop the software and choose the control system that enables it to perform a series of missions. The entire project is completed within one academic year and universities from all over the world are welcome to take part. This new AI education programme supports our commitment to developing the talent pipeline of the CAV industry.” 

The MIRA Technology Institute shares this ambition by providing training opportunities in CAV technology including IMI and other courses in electric and hybrid vehicle hazard management, maintenance, systems repair and replacement, and safety awareness.

Formed through a partnership between industry and education, the MTI offers a full spectrum of training opportunities from apprenticeships to bespoke and commercial courses for businesses from across the sector, from SMEs to large organisations. It provides access to a unique skills escalator, enabling progress to higher and degree level apprenticeships and beyond. This means that, for the first time, individuals can start an apprenticeship at Level 2 or above and progress to PhD level with the same training partnership.

As a dedicated resource for the automotive industry, the training is highly relevant and can be accessed by the full range and size of businesses within the sector including Tier 1 automotive businesses within the supply chain, and major international corporates. 

Terry Spall, commercial director at the MIRA Technology Park, and Chief Judge of the Formula Student competition said, “It has been fantastic to see the prototype on show at the MTI. Formula Student has been successfully producing high-quality, industry ready engineering graduates for more than twenty years and over 40,000 competitors have passed through the competition.

“Each year we typically have around 130 university teams entering from all over the world. The students who work on this project become extremely capable, well-rounded and confident individuals who are highly employable. The new AI competition reflects the development of the automotive sector because it attracts students with much-needed software development skills.”

The next stop for the Formula Student AI prototype vehicle will be Coventry University, the second higher education institute to sign up for this year’s programme. The University will soon take delivery of its own new vehicle and equip its AI driver with a computing platform and sensors ready for this year’s competition.

Submitted on 08/03/2019