The University of Southampton

Southampton student warns of 'speed bumps ahead' for driverless cars in prize-winning think piece

Published: 3 November 2020
Oana Lazar is the runner-up of the undergraduate Automotive Electronics Competition

University of Southampton student Oana Lazar has been named as the runner-up of the UK Electronics Skills Foundation (UKESF) 2020 Automotive Electronics Competition with a thought-provoking take on the future of driverless vehicles.

The fourth year MEng Electronic Engineering with Industrial Studies student reflected on cyber security concerns for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) and the potential merits of adaptive 'digital twins' in the prize-winning think piece.

Oana is a UKESF Scholar, sponsored by UltraSoC, and is currently expanding her skills on a 12-month industrial placement from her degree.

"Automotive electronics has grown from a futuristic concept to a key field of engineering in just a few short years, and the UKESF Automotive Electronics Competition has inspired me to follow this exciting development," she says.

"CAVs are hitting the road faster than anticipated and we will soon be entering a transition from driving to being driven, when drivers will co-exist with driverless cars. While CAVs reduce human drivers' errors, a single CAV will have hundreds of electronic control units running millions of lines of code, all written by error-prone humans.

"Ensuring our code is bug-free, maintainable, and backwards-compatible to the extent required, all within an accelerated time-to-market, will be challenging. Regardless of whether you are inventing solutions or just sharing the road with CAVs, we will all be part of this exciting future."

UKESF Scholarships boost students' career prospects through a £1,000 annual bursary, paid work placements and mentoring from a leading employer in the electronics sector. Scholarships were awarded to 21 Southampton students this spring, representing over a third of all those awarded to the 22 universities in the scheme.

The 2020 Automotive Electronics Competition, run in partnership with AESIN and with support from UltraSoC, was exclusively open to UKESF partner universities.

"Through lectures by the IET, webinars by the IEEE, and projects such as UltraSoC’s Secure-CAV, I have been learning how this novel industry is changing almost all aspects of engineering, and especially software safety through standards such as MISRA," Oana says.

"It is an incredible honour to have been able to take a small part in this revolution by being selected as this competition’s finalist, so I would like to give my warmest thanks to the UKESF, AESIN, and UltraSoC for offering me this amazing opportunity, and to Professor Geoff Merrett for encouraging me to apply.

"Finally, I want to thank my late boyfriend Dan Colmer for introducing me to the world of cars and sharing his incredible enthusiasm with me, I hope he would have been proud of how far I have come."

You can read Oana's full entry to the 2020 Automotive Electronics Competition here.

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