WIT’s self driving car

engineeringWIT’s self driving car

WIT’s self driving car

12 weeks. Eight students. One Toyota Corolla. No hands on the steering wheel.

Over 12 weeks weeks in 2016, eight WIT engineering students achieved a first for the Applied Robotics Lab - a Self Driving Robotic Car.

After just 12 weeks of working on the White Board to Self Drive Car project students on the one-year BEng in Electronic Engineering, an add on course for the two-year Higher Certificate in Engineering in Electronic Engineering had a Toyota Corolla safely finish a test drive on the institute’s Cork Road campus.

The students are part of the WIT School of Engineering Applied Electronics Stream, a study pathway that allows a student to get an honours degree in Applied Electronics without the prerequisite of Higher Level Maths.

Watch how they did it.

Like all good pieces of engineering, the design that team decided on is pretty simple: LOOK, GO, TURN, STOP, SAFELY.


The car needs to look. For this we used a simple web camera and some computer vision software. This first locates the road in the picture.

Then the vision systems software decides if a Go, Turn or Stop command is required.

The Vision team made up of James Doughty and Shane Shortiss, then added CAN bus commands to send out these messages to the other teams involved in the design.


The Acceleration Systems team, Adrian Skowron and Mark Ormsby then take the Go message and convert it into an accelerator command. The students designed and then built electronics that sends a voltage to the car’s engine management system.

This voltage is interpreted by the car’s engine management system as a press on the accelerator and so increases the revs of the Car.


The Steering Control Systems Team, Michael Wall and Jenny Ball looked at a couple of options on this including some cool autonomous tractor technology used on farms and a Prius car, this was the car used for their first iteration of the Google car. However the team’s budgets were slightly different than Google’s.

Next is a pivotal moment for the project, the students meet with Adrian Cunningham for the first time. Adrian is an Automotive lecturer in the Department of Engineering Technology.

Adrian meets with group in the Auto Mechanics Lab and physically shows the team all the insides that make up a car.

They decided to use the inbuilt power steering already in most cars.

They like the acceleration team design and build Electronics to inject a voltage into the car management system to make it think somebody is trying to turn the wheel.

The car’s power steering then kicks in to turn the steering wheel.

Adrian now becomes a key member of team, consulting on all automotive issues, providing access to actual cars and always having a can-do attitude which keeps project moving forward.


The braking team Mark MacManus and Mark Dungan, used a heavy duty Servo motor to physically push and pull the brake pedal.

The team reused knowledge contributed over the years from students working on other robots within the Applied Robotics Lab.

The team designed and built the electronic systems to interface the CAN bus message for Stop received from the Vision system to physical braking system.

It was during the building and mounting of the braking system that the team was introduced to James Whelan another Automotive Lecturer. 

This was another key moment for the project, James was to become key in the actual car build stage of the project...staying with the team all the way to end contributing on everything from project safety to car wire looms.


This was a key issue all the way along the project, including software checks to limit acceleration and steering wheel control.

Drive Go/No Go Check list, use of three pilots within car during live test, to choice of suitable closed road and team members acting as road marshals on day of test.

The School of Engineering at WIT includes three departments, Architecture, Built Environment, and Engineering Technology. It is home to a broad range of education courses and research programmes from Higher Certificate to Doctorate at Levels 6-10.


Undergraduate (full-time)
Course Code Name Duration
WD010 Higher Certificate in Engineering in Electronic Engineering 2 yrs
WD086 BEng (Hons) in Electronic Engineering 4 yrs
WD011 Higher Certificate in Engineering in Mechanical Engineering 2 yrs
WD085 BEng (Hons) in Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering 4 yrs
WD040 Higher Certificate in Engineering in Building Services Engineering 2 yrs
WD171 BEng (Hons) in Sustainable Energy Engineering 4 yrs
WD182 BEng in Electrical Engineering 3 yrs
WD139 BEng in Civil Engineering 3 yrs
WD162 BSc (Hons) in Quantity Surveying 4 yrs
WD025 BSc (Hons) in Construction Management & Engineering 4 yrs
WD195 BSc in Architectural Technology & Building Information (BIM) Technology 4 yrs
WD144 Bachelor of Architecture (Hons) 5 yrs
Add-on Courses
Course Code Name Duration
WD031 BEng in Electronic Engineering 1 yr
WD026 BSc (Hons) in Applied Electronics 2 yrs
WD032 BEng in Manufacturing Engineering 1 yr
WD036 BSc (Hons) in Manufacturing Engineering 1 yr
WD059 BEng in Building Services Engineering 1 yr
WD178 BEng (Hons) in Sustainable Civil Engineering 2 yrs
WD189 BSc in Applied Conservation Skills 1 Year
WD190 B.Eng (Honours) in Electrical Engineering 2 yrs