St. Thomas Engineer Magazine

ACROSS THE COUNTRY IN A SELF-DRIVING CAR

SARA SARGENT ’17 IS THE ENGINEERING PROJECT MANAGER AT VSI LABS, A LOCAL COMPANY THAT RESEARCHES AND TESTS AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE (AV) TECHNOLOGIES. LAST SUMMER, SARGENT TESTED ONE OF ITS CARS, A FORD FUSION RESEARCH VEHICLE, BY TAKING IT ALL THE WAY TO CALIFORNIA WITH TWO OTHER DRIVERS.

react to that, so we had to take over so we wouldn’t collide into the semi.” Other times, they observed that the infrastructure wouldn’t fit the needs of their other vision- based autonomous driving system, such as when there was dirt covering the pavement markings. Once they arrived in California, they presented their findings and participated in a panel on autonomous vehicle regulations. VSI Labs had sponsored a senior design team from St. Thomas in 2018. “The team built a driver- monitoring system for our car. They did a super great job,” Sargent said.

Sargent transferred to St. Thomas after working in retail and attending a community college. “The engineering program really attracted me because there are more opportunities to customize your study and work more closely with your adviser,” she said. While at St. Thomas, Sargent was the president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) student chapter and a member of the Society of Women Engineers. Today, she is on the external advisory board for the School of Engineering, which is made up of several engineers who work in industry.

By ANGIE VOGNILD ‘20

Sara Sargent was testing an HD map-based lane-keeping system in which the driver navigates the car manually, but can flip a turn signal and the car will move to the next lane on its own. She and her team came across some interesting obstacles on the four-day drive. They were passing a semitruck on the interstate going 80 miles per hour, and the semi started to suck their car into it. “We were going at such a high speed that the force was much greater and the driver could feel it more,” Sargent said. “We hadn’t taught the system to

St. Thomas Engineer 2020 Page 13

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