Undergraduate interns help Jaguar Land Rover research in-car intelligence

Rob Watts and Jess Cummings are second-year undergraduates demonstrating future car technology for Jaguar Land Rover through an internship programme called Extreme Blue at IBM's UK research facility in Hursley

Rob Watts and Jess Cummings are second-year undergraduates working on a project demonstrating future car technology for Jaguar Land Rover.

The pair and their team members, David Roe and Parul Kothari, are among a select group of 16 interns chosen to work at IBM's UK research facility in Hursley through a programme called Extreme Blue.

The project shows how sensor technology in future cars, could improve driving experience. The undergraduates have built a concept application from scratch, using RFID, analytical tools from IBM and a flash-based tablet device to demonstrate how the car can learn a driver's habits, like preferred temperature or what station he or she listens to at certain times of day.

Using these technologies, the system aims to provide user identification and a predictive human-machine interface. Firstly the driver is identified, using RFID technology, as they walk towards the car. Subsequently data is loaded about their past driving behaviour and experiences - their unique driver's profile. Finally, using pattern recognition software, the vehicle automates various in-car features to enhance the user experience.

Carl Pickering, head of electrical research at Jaguar Land Rover, said: "The project is looking at how to make then driving experience more pleasurable." The vehicle tries to understand what the driver wants by combining sensor data and behavioural data.

Cummings, who is studying Geography at Oxford, said: "There are sensors in the steering wheel. Heart rate and pressure sensors can monitor the driver's stress level." Her role on the project has been on the business side as a project manager and client liaison with Jaguar Land Rover. "We have been thrown in a the deep end. The project has opened my eyes to getting inside the customer's mind."

Watts, who is studying mechanical engineering at Durham, is one of three technical leads on the project. He said: "The project is an opportunity to interact with people."

Each Extreme Blue project is supported by IBM client executive. Dan Hatfield, who is overseeing the smart vehicle project for IBM said: "Smart Planet is a big focus for IBM." Smart vehicle extends this to vehicles, where sensors collect data, which is aggregated to support the driver.

Through the Extreme Blue programme, IBM selects second-year undergraduate students to spend 12 weeks at IBM working on innovation. The students work in teams of four (three technology and one business student, together with an IBM mentor).

The student teams are tasked with developing the technology and business plan for a new product or service that addresses an existing market need. IBM said that as a result of similar projects over the last few years, interns have, worldwide, submitted more than 400 patent disclosures and have made more than 60 contributions to the open source community.

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