8 schools will try to build self-driving Chevrolet Bolts in 3 years

General Motors will donate the Bolt EVs to see if Level 4 autonomy can be achieved in three years' time.

General Motors

Universities are hotbeds of cutting-edge research, and are thusly equipped to do some incredible things. GM hopes that, with its help, it can make those things happen on a short timeframe.

GM and SAE International announced the eight finalists that will compete in the AutoDrive Challenge at the SAE World Congress Experience in Detroit. The finalists are, in no particular order: Kettering University, Virginia Tech, Michigan State University, University of Waterloo, Michigan Tech, University of Toronto, North Carolina A&T University and Texas A&M University.

The Bolt EVs being handed out are no different than the standard ones... until they start driving themselves, that is.

General Motors

The challenge is straightforward, but still quite complex. The competitors have three years to outfit a Chevrolet Bolt EV with the hardware and software required to navigate an urban driving course completely autonomously. The cars will conform to SAE Level 4 autonomy, which means the car is capable of driving itself and monitoring the environment without any human intervention in certain modes.

General Motors will give each competitor a Chevrolet Bolt EV, and partners and suppliers will help the students along, since building something like this is absolutely a team effort. Teams will have the chance to attend workshops during the challenge to refine ideas and improve understanding of the underlying concepts.

The competition is broken down by year. Year 1 will focus on creating a paper concept sketch and becoming familiar with software for sensors and computing, followed by basic tasks like avoiding objects. Year 2 gets more challenging, including tests on multiple lane changes and dynamic object detection. Year 3 is when everything comes together, with final design validation and testing on the aforementioned urban course.

Chevrolet remains hard at work devising its own solutions for autonomy. It, too, is using the Bolt EV as a platform. The Orion facility that produces the standard Bolt will also manufacture versions loaded with autonomous hardware, and the vehicles will be tested on local Michigan roads, thanks to a new law that permits such activity.

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