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New Russ College student organization aims to drive autonomous vehicle tech

Alexis Eichelberger | Apr 30, 2018

New Russ College student organization aims to drive autonomous vehicle tech

Alexis Eichelberger | Apr 30, 2018

Members of the Russ College of Engineering and Technology’s newest student organization will delve into the cutting-edge technology of autonomous vehicles while competing in two international competitions this summer.

The group, Professional Autonomous Vehicle Engineers (PAVE), was formed by two undergraduate students and one graduate student who wanted to gain hands-on autonomous ground vehicle (AGV) experience and promote the Russ College’s research through competitions.

Senior electrical engineering student Jonathan Waters, founding president, helped get PAVE running after a classmate invited him to a meeting. He said the experiential learning PAVE offers is invaluable.

“We provide an opportunity to put our education to practical use and get to learn things that aren't taught in the classroom,” Waters said.

Grants from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Russ Vision funds, have already enabled the team to purchase and retrofit a radio-controlled car and an electric children’s car into autonomous vehicles. The competitions will evaluate the cars’ dynamic control and obstacle avoidance abilities.

Despite the challenge of impending deadlines, Waters has enjoyed working alongside his peers, exploring AGV technology and getting their vehicles competition-ready. He believes the most important and exciting possibility that comes with autonomous vehicles is the minimization of traffic deaths.

“I think it would be nice to drive on the highway and not pass memorials,” Waters said. “Beyond that, the possibilities are immense. Since we aren't set up for trains, we could have autonomous cars to take you to and from locations. Even then, there are pros and cons, but I think the pros outweigh the cons if done right.”

Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Jim Zhu helped found PAVE and will serve as the group’s faculty advisor, assisting with technical aspects and project management. He said the group included the word “professional” in its name to denote its dedication to professionalism and serving as a wholesome representation of the college – not to create a catchy acronym.

“This is an engineering organization working on real-world leading-edge technology, and the students have to deliver real and working products,” Zhu said. “The Russ College has already seen several student organizations working on challenging engineering projects and competing in national or international arena, such as rockets, airplane and robots. This organization is similar to these other groups, but in a different cutting-edge engineering field.”

For more info., contact Professor Jim Zhu at or 740.597.1506.