Students from around the USA show self-driving computer science skills at LTU

SOUTHFIELD–On a white-striped roadway painted on a Lawrence Technological University parking lot, the two GEM electric vehicles approach each other at a stately 3 mph.

They passed without incident, both sticking to the right lane.

It is not until you look closely that you notice what’s unusual about this. No human hand is on either steering wheel; the cars are driving themselves.

Monday was demonstration day at Lawrence Tech for eight college students from around the nation, brought to LTU through a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates grant.

The program, now in its second of three summer sessions, was created by LTU computer science professor C.J. Chung, who applied for and won the $281,712 NSF grant. Participants live in LTU’s residence halls and receive a $6,080 stipend. The internship students design and implement algorithms to steer real vehicles on a test course.

In 2023’s second session, for the first time, Chung said students used artificial learning technologies to teach the cars to drive around the course.

REU students with their self-driving vehicle. LTU photo.

“In traditional software development, we hand-craft a computer program to steer the cars around the course,” Chung said. “With AI, we develop a deep learning framework to teach the vehicle. After we teach the vehicle, it is able to drive itself. To teach the vehicle, the students drive the vehicle the vehicle multiple times in different conditions–morning and afternoon, sunny and overcast, raining and dry. Today, we are testing both traditional and deep learning AI algorithms to analyze and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of them.”

Also an advancement from 2022’s first summer of the program–this year, the cars communicate, so both know the location of the other. Josh Siegel, a computer science professor at Michigan State University, is co-principal investigator on the grant, and is leading the V2X (Vehicle to Everything) subproject.

“I’m very happy with how this year’s research experience turned out,” Chung said. “We’ve come a long way over the past two summers teaching students how to develop connected and autonomous vehicles.”

The two self-driving cars pass each other on the test track without a hitch. LTU photo.

Participating students were Travis Forgach, a computer science student at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; Brendan Franz, a computer science student at Harvard University; Matthew Jones, a mathematics student at Willamette (Ore.) University; Milan Jostes, a computer science student at Lawrence Tech; Michael Khalfin, a mathematics student at Rice University in Texas; Luke LeGoullon, a computer and systems engineering student at Louisiana State University; Shilpi Shah, a computer science student at Rutgers University; and Jack Volgren, a computer and systems engineering student at Pennsylvania State University. The students and LTU staff are pictured above. A committee selected the participating students from a field of 61 applicants.

For more information on participating in the final summer 2024 session, visit

Lawrence Technological University,, is one of only 13 private, technological, comprehensive doctoral universities in the United States. Located in Southfield, Mich., LTU was founded in 1932, and offers more than 100 programs through its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, and Engineering. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 11 percent of universities for alumni salaries. Forbes and The Wall Street Journal rank LTU among the nation’s top 10 percent. U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best in the Midwest colleges. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.

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