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Students showcase autonomous vehicles at Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition

Engineering and computer science students came from around the globe to compete at the 31st annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IGVC), an event that immerses students in the burgeoning field of self-driving vehicles.   

Hosted by Oakland University, the four-day event challenges teams to build and operate autonomous vehicles on an outdoor course with defined lanes, GPS waypoints and obstacles. The competition incorporates Artificial Intelligence and robotics, while introducing students to the challenges of engineering those technologies for military and civilian settings.

“The IGVC started with the U.S. Army, which was a very strong sponsor throughout the 90s and early 2000s,” said Oakland Engineering Professor Ka C Cheok, who cofounded the IGVC in 1993. “More recently, the auto industry has come in because ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) is such a lifesaver, with anti-collision, lane assist and other functional safety features.” 

During the competition, teams participated in the following challenges:

  • Auto-Nav Challenge: vehicle (robot) must complete an outdoor course in full autonomous mode while negotiating obstacles and maneuvering using GPS to target destinations.
     
  • Self-Drive Challenge: fully autonomous vehicle (car) competition focused on street driving capabilities, parking and track driving maneuvers.
     
  • Design Competition: students submit a written report and give an oral presentation and vehicle demonstration before the IGVC Design Judge Panel

This year, the competition drew 28 teams from across the world, including the United States, Canada, Egypt, India, Japan and Australia. The University of Oklahoma won the overall competition, followed by Millersville University (Pennsylvania) and Military Technical College (Egypt). 

Chris Van Dan Elzen, an Oakland University alumnus and longtime IGVC judge, said he enjoys seeing teams get better at navigating the challenges each year. 

“Ultimately, we want them all to succeed because their success is going to be all of our success when they go out and get jobs and make cars that don’t crash,” he said. “That has applications worldwide with any car manufacturer, including companies right here in Southeast Michigan.”

Van Dan Elzen also pointed to the region’s status as home to the U.S. Army’s DEVCOM  Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC), the nation's laboratory for advanced military automotive technology.

“They look at questions like ‘how can we run supply lines in a safe way to make sure our troops can meals to eat?,’” Van Dan Elzen said. “If we can send them in with autonomous trucks, that’s a huge deal.”

Job preparation has been among the hallmarks of the IGVC over the years, due to its emphasis on resourcefulness and problem-solving. 

“It exposes students to projects beyond the classroom and encourages them to explore and learn from experience and experiments,” said Cheok. “It’s very hands-on and practical because if something doesn’t work, you have to troubleshoot. We’ve had a lot of feedback from graduates who’ve told us that it helped them do very well in the job market.”

Dan Mocnik, president of the Oakland Robotics Association, said the IGVC teaches students about the importance of teamwork as they prepare their autonomous vehicles for competition.

“We’re split into sub-teams – mechanical, electrical and software. Each sub-team works independently, but has to keep the others informed about their needs,” said Mocnik, describing the structure of OU’s team. “For example, I have to tell mechanical where the sensors will be on the robot so they can build the structure for that. Electrical has to tell mechanical what kind of housing the electrical components need and software has to talk to electrical to communicate directional information to the robot’s drive system.”

Mocnik also enjoys the IGVC because of its ability to spark creativity and inspiration.

“The spirit of the competition is to build a whole new robot or make significant changes (from the previous year),” he said. “It’s interesting to see the designs other teams have because that gives us inspiration for ways we can improve our robot in the future.”

IGVC 2024 Full Results:

1st Place Overall, The Lescoe Cup, 24 Grand Award Points
University: University of Oklahoma

2nd Place Overall, The Lescoe Trophy, 20 Grand Award Points
Millersville University of Pennsylvania

3rd Place Overall, The Lescoe Award, 16 Grand Award Points
Military Technical College (Egypt) 

Auto-Nav Challenge
University of Oklahoma

Self-Drive Challenge
Lawrence Technological University

Auto-Nav Design Competition
Manipal Academy of Higher Education (India)

 Self-Drive Design Competition
Lawrence Technological University

Rookie of the Year
Military Technical College (Egypt)

Thanks to those who make the IGVC possible:

Organizing Committee
Jerry Lane, Bernie Theisen, Andrew Kosinski and Ka C Cheok

Judges
Jane Tarakhovski, Chris Van Dan Elzen and Douglas McKenzie

Sponsors
Oakland University School of Engineering and Computer Science, AUVSI, Great Lakes Systems & Technology, DEVCOM, Robonation, Hyundai, MOBIS, NDIA-Michigan Chapter, Magna, NAMC, Dataspeed, and BAE Systems

The 2025 Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition is scheduled for May 30-June 2, 2025 at Oakland University. Learn more at IGVC.org.

Chamber Trustees