Think smart, drive smart

University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT) in car garage.Engineering students builds a smart vehicle that recognizes driver’s habits

“Today, some cars have sports and eco modes, but that’s just two options. Imagine a car that optimizes itself for each unique driver,” says Kelvin Law, a masters student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “With this smart vehicle, you would have a smartphone app to log all your driving habits - how much you drive, how aggressive you are – and it would optimize the driving experience for you.”

The technology combines a smartphone app with an integrated touchscreen computer in the car, explains Kelvin. As the driver operates the vehicle, the computer records data ranging from pedal position to driving speed, which gets stored on the app. The next time the driver starts up the car, the app feeds the driving habit data back into the car’s computer, and the computer adjusts the car accordingly, for an optimal driving experience.

The project is called the Adaptive Vehicle Control Strategy project and its part of the work Kelvin and physics student, Brandon Walton, are leading on the University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT). The project is part of the team’s move to broaden its scope to improve all aspects of cars – not just alternative fuels.

Kelvin Law in UWAFT

Kelvin feels very lucky to have the platform provided by UWAFT to conduct research and testing for the project, including fully customized, prototype hybrid electric vehicles as well as state-of-the-art tools and facilities. From this experience, Kelvin hope to develop new innovations and turn them into feasible business ideas.

The student team is currently partnering with Wilfrid Laurier University students to compete in EcoCAR2, a three-year long engineering competition that challenges 15 universities across North America to reduce the environmental impact of a Chevrolet Malibu, without compromising performance and safety. The team was featured on The Cord and uWaterloo stories


In May 2014 UWAFT was selected to compete in EcoCar3. Read about their latest success on the UWaterloo Life blog in A Tradition in Innovation.
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