Today we’re talking to “Frank” Chude Qian from General Motors
. As a student at the University of Toronto, Frank participated in the SAE AutoDrive Challenge
, as the simulation/systems/safety lead and later, Team Principal of the auToronto team, and graduated in 2022.
©SAE AutoDrive Competition
Why did you choose to get involved in the competition?
I joined aUToronto because of my deep passion for working on autonomous vehicles and my desire to be part of the development of the next generation of autonomous vehicles in the world. I was particularly drawn to aUToronto because it is a team that participates in the GM/SAE Autodrive Challenge, which is focused on developing an SAE Level 4 autonomous passenger vehicle. This competition provides a unique opportunity to work with like-minded individuals who share my passion and drive, and to be part of a team that operates like a startup. What’s more, as a student on the team, I was been given financial autonomy by the university and received technical support from faculty advisors throughout the experience, which allowed me to develop both my technical skills and my entrepreneurial spirit.
What was your role on the team?
In my first year with the team, I was appointed as the Simulation/System/Safety Team lead, where I oversaw the development of aUToronto’s software-in-the-loop simulation and validation infrastructure using Simulink, Jenkins, Docker, and employing the technique of continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD). Our team was the first among our competitors to achieve full system software-in-the-loop simulation automatically, which is a significant accomplishment for a student-led team which we executed tests like the industry.In my second year, I was promoted to Team Principal, where I led the theoretical design of aUToronto’s next-generation autonomous vehicle, Artemis, and oversaw the integration of its perception system. Working with a team of over 100 students from UofT, we implemented the perception system on a perception validation test cart provided by the competition. Our team’s efforts resulted in us winning 11 first place awards, 1 second place award, and 1 third place award across a total of 13 award categories.
How did you use MATLAB/ Simulink in the competition and/or academic work?
“We heavily utilized the MathWorks simulation environment provided by the competition to validate our software competency and test various edge case scenarios.“
In the competition, we heavily utilized the MathWorks simulation environment provided by the competition to validate our software competency and test various edge case scenarios. Through randomization, we were able to capture edge case scenarios that were not considered by our developers or not testable in the real world, ensuring the robustness of our autonomous vehicle software. Recently, the road runner scenarios have allowed us to more faithfully simulate various road conditions, sensor coverage, and prove the software’s robustness.
Moreover, we leveraged MathWorks’ camera lidar calibration toolbox, which provided an easy way to produce our camera and lidar transformation calibration. We found this utility incredibly helpful, as it allowed us to accelerate the calibration process from manual guesswork to an automated process. This saved us a significant amount of time and allowed us to focus on other aspects of the project, ultimately contributing to our success in the competition.
“Participating in the competition sponsored by GM introduced me to the core values and concepts of the automotive industry, which helped me transition smoothly into my role at GM.”
Do you think the skills you gained using these tools have helped you in your professional career? If so, how?
The skills I gained using MATLAB/Simulink in the competition have been extremely valuable in my professional career. Many companies in the automotive industry rely heavily on Simulink modeling for development and testing of their software, and my experience with these tools gave me a head start in understanding the tooling and its potential applications. This has allowed me to make valuable contributions to my team and quickly adapt to new projects and challenges in my work.
Did your hands-on experience in the competition help to prepare you for your first role in the industry?
” My work on the perception system design enabled me to gain system-level thinking skills and a deeper understanding of the automotive system, which allowed me to quickly adapt to my role and provide value to the team.”
Participating in the competition sharpened my critical and creative problem-solving skills, which have been highly valuable in my role as a software simulation developer. The experience with MathWorks’ simulation environment, SIL validation, and CI/CD has given me a head start in understanding industry tools and processes. Additionally, my work on the perception system design enabled me to gain system-level thinking skills and a deeper understanding of the automotive system, which allowed me to quickly adapt to my role and provide value to the team.
In your current role at General Motors do you use Matlab/Simulink?
At GM, Simulink is a widely used tool for modeling and simulation, and my experience with the tool during the competition has given me a solid foundation to work with.
What big project you are working on right now?
Currently, I am part of the group that develops an automated simulation system that allows automated testing and validation of the vehicle system. The goal of the work is to ensure the highest level of quality and safety in General Motor’s vehicles.
“Find your passion and follow it! “
What advice would you give young engineers seeking employment post-grad?
I think finding a job you’re passionate about is very important, as it allows you to both work and have fun. For example, I’ve loved cars since I was a kid, so joining General Motors not only fulfilled my childhood dream, but also allowed me to make an impact on the future of the automotive industry.
Another important piece of advice is to trust in yourself and be a good salesperson for yourself. Attend conferences and competitions, and talk to different people to see what everyone is doing outside of academia in the industry. This will help you to find a place where you can make a meaningful impact.
Additionally, it’s important to evaluate your work quantitatively on your resume and talk about how much your contributions have impacted a project. Be proud of the work you have done, as everyone is unique and their work makes a unique impact on the world.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to take risks and step outside of your comfort zone, as this is where you’ll learn and grow the most.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
As a final note, I highly recommend seeking out and participating in competition teams at your university to gain practical experience working on real projects with others who share your passion. The competition experience not only helps to develop skills and knowledge but also provides the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with like-minded individuals. It’s an effective way to gain experience, expand your network, and have fun while doing it.
©SAE AutoDrive Competition