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AutoDrive Challenge™ II Wraps Year Three with Exciting Opportunities for Student Competitors

Posted: June 24, 2024

Industry is looking for the next generation of mobility professionals to come with diverse experience and skills, and SAE International is here to meet that need.

AutoDrive Challenge™ II—a continuation of the partnership between SAE International and General Motors (GM)—brings university teams together to develop an autonomous vehicle capable of navigating an urban driving course operating at SAE J3016™ Level 4.

The competition gives students practical experience with tasks that could challenge even experienced engineers. Over a span of four years, AutoDrive Challenge™ II allows students within a small cohort of 10 elite teams to build upon their work from years prior and to tackle the challenges of developing an autonomous vehicle through iterative learning.

“AutoDrive is a talent incubator, and what it really does is it allows students a chance to do something they don’t normally get to do,” said Andrew McCoy, AutoDrive Challenge Program Leader at GM. “We’re after a better, well-rounded engineer—an engineer who doesn’t just solve problems, but can present their ideas, because that’s part of being a good engineer.”

Students have several opportunities to do just that through workshops throughout the year, presenting their work to judges as part of competition, and as featured speakers at SAE’s WCX.

With Year Three of AutoDrive Challenge™ II wrapping in June 2024, returning students have found themselves prepared for the future in a variety of ways.

Haley Rindfleisch, a computer engineering student at Virginia Tech, has been on her university team for two years as part of the simulation team. She’s also landed not one, but two highly competitive GM internships thanks to connections she made through AutoDrive.

“I’ve definitely had a very good start. Last year was my first year, and I was able to get an internship at GM which allowed me to return this year,” Rindfleisch said. “It’s getting your foot in the door that’s the hard part. This design team really helped me to start off, and now I have a lot more opportunities having gotten the first internship experience.”

AutoDrive isn’t only advantageous for engineers. Ariel Leykin, a recent business administration graduate at University of Wisconsin, serves as the team’s operations lead, and is heading for law school in the fall.

Leykin has participated in all three years of Series II and has learned a lot along the way.

“I’ve had a lot of professional and personal growth over time. I’ve been able to build up a huge skill set of different things I wouldn’t have gotten in the classroom alone,” Leykin said. “I’ve been able to work with so many different types of people I’ve never met before, learning how to talk to engineers to communicate and get on the same page, just a whole, wide range of skill sets.”

AutoDrive is unique not only in its tailored career preparation for students, but also in the way it will drive forward the next phase of mobility as a new generation works with advancing technology.

For GM Technical Fellow and R&D Group Manager Priyantha Mudalige, it’s an opportunity to identify up and coming talent as he volunteers through the AutoDrive program as a team mentor with North Carolina A&T.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity. I really enjoy what I do,” Mudalige said. “The most exciting part of mentorship is you see the rising stars and then mentoring them and helping them to, hopefully, end up at GM or other automotive industry (companies).”

Learn more about AutoDrive Challenge™ at