I got the chance to attend the finals of the NXP Cup EMEA at the Fraunhofer IIS in Erlangen Germany on the last day of April this year. This is a competition for student teams to build and race an autonomously-controlled model car around a track. The team’s performance this year saw a big improvement compared to last year.

Altogether 199 student teams from EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) entered the final qualification of the NXP Cup for 2019, which was held on April 29, 2019 in the RAM of Fraunhofer IIS in Erlangen. This year, the competition had introduced some new rules which promised to add to the fun.

Autonomous driving

The NXP Cup challenge is for teams of students to build an autonomously-controlled model vehicle to navigate a track. The student teams are of course working with a limited budget, their job is to install sensors and microcontrollers on the model chassis and write the necessary code to process the sensor information and control the car using NXP microcontrollers.
There are only two basic chassis designs but the 19 vehicles all look completely different. Image: Elektor / TS

To build the cheap self-driving model car they will need to gather knowledge of both hardware and embedded software and also have the motivation to fine-tune the vehicle’s control systems to make it work as well as they can. The vehicle needs to map the way ahead using a camera to identify the edges of the track and spot any obstacles ahead. They must also respond to markings on the road indicating the start and finish of a speed-restricted zone. In this section the vehicle should throttle back to half its normal speed. Points are awarded for the fastest vehicle to complete the course without straying ‘off piste’.

Teams are at liberty to use as many sensors and NXP microcontrollers as they need. After the initial testing of their vehicle using a practice road layout the final track layout is revealed to the teams for the first time to see how they cope with this ‘unknown’ layout.
Finals of the NXP cup. Video: Fraunhofer IIS / NXP 


The success of this year’s entrants was a big improvement on last years. 12 of the 19 teams made the final race without a mistake and the competition was dominated by two teams from Switzerland.
First place went to ARCAR1 from the Haute Ecole ARC Ingénierie (CH). They are invited by Rolf Nissen (vice president of global key accounts at NXP semiconductor) to travel to Santa Clara in June to visit NXP Connects and participate in the NXP support and training event. Here they will get professional training, live demonstrations and get the chance to network.
Mouser Distributor sponsored the second prize won by the second Swiss team with ARCAR2. The third place is sponsored by Elektor and was awarded to team KAW4Wheels from the AGH University of Krakow (Poland).
Special awards were presented to the VAXNA teams of the Stredni Skola informatiky and the SlowFox MUNI Corp of Masaryk University (both from the Czech Republic) for the originality of their design solution and quality of construction.