Testing Car2X communication with RC cars
How can a RC car provide important data for autonomous driving? In an interview, Matthias Müller talks about his project for his master thesis and the opportunity to drive his passion for the automobile at Telemotive.
Is there an event during your time at Telemotive that you will remember with a smile even 20 years from now?
Yes. My project for the master thesis here is the RoboCar. At first, I thought it was probably a small remote-controlled car, about the size of a shoe. However, when my mentor told me about the actual model, a buggy on a scale of one to five, it caught my interest and awakened my inner child. And, apparently, not only mine: when the package containing the car was delivered, everyone at work suddenly jumped off their chairs and raced to be the first to try it out. Quickly unpacked, we began to test the RoboCar immediately. To experience this enthusiasm for my project so closely - that really is an indescribable feeling.
How did you hear about Telemotive?
Through the job portal Absolventa. As I have had a weakness for technology since pretty much my childhood and I’m really into cars - especially fast ones - I read the job offer more closely. The application process and the information about the interview at Telemotive also sounded very exciting, so I applied.
How was the process? Can you confirm the information found on the internet?
Absolutely. After I have submitted my documents, I received an acknowledgement of receipt and was invited to a telephone interview for the Böblingen location shortly afterwards. The conversation went very well and the atmosphere was very pleasant. What struck me the most was how enthusiastic the employees of Telemotive are about the automobile of the future. This passion convinced me even more in my desire to start working here. Shortly after the interview, I was accepted.
“What struck me the most was how enthusiastic the employees of Telemotive are about the automobile of the future.”
You applied for a job in Böblingen, but you are now in Munich. How did that happen? Did something go wrong?
No, not at all. When I submitted my application for the job in Böblingen, another student applied for a position in Munich and was accepted. However, because he preferred to work in Böblingen and I was also happy to go to Munich, we were able to swap locations without any problems.
And, how do you like it in Munich?
Munich is simply brilliant. I actually come from a small village in the greater Aachen area, where it rains more or less all the time. The city of Munich is a real contrast in this respect. Many people, many possibilities and yet; lots of freedom. What I like about Munich is that you can also have the feeling of being in the countryside while at the same time being in the metropolis in the heart of Bavaria. The view of the Alps over the city’s houses is, of course, still the icing on the cake.
But now to your work here. What are you in charge of?
I work in the Advance Development Department at Telemotive, where I am currently writing my master thesis with the working title: Conceptual design and development of a prototype structure for use in the Car2X environment. Put more simply: I am designing and building a prototype vehicle, the RoboCar, which can communicate with its environment and thus ultimately drive autonomously. I use a 1:5-scale RC car and equip it with various electronics and technology. The goal of my work is to develop the RC car as a Car2x platform and learning platform for autonomous driving.
That sounds very exciting. However, how can the RC car provide reliable information on road traffic?
The RoboCar is a rather large remote-controlled car capable of traveling at speeds of up to 120 kilometers per hour. Yet, I upgrade the car with even better equipment, which means more power and more electronics. Thanks to sensors, for example, it can react to various objects and obstacles. At the moment, the steering and acceleration still run on the Arduino platform, but a CAN bus is being planned. Today’s cars also use such busses. If you then equip several RC cars accordingly, you can test and improve the Car2X communication. The Telemotive data logger blue PiraT Mini, which we directly connect to the RoboCar, can carry out a fast evaluation of the test data. In addition, the RoboCar can be equipped with more and more items and serves as a test platform for new technologies. Thus, it is very similar to a real car and provides useful information for the mobility of tomorrow.
Do you have fun at work?
Of course! Ultimately, I am responsible for the design and development of a car that can be considered an important test platform for tomorrow’s mobility. Actually, two students should supervise the project, but my colleague canceled at short notice. That is why I am taking care of it on my own and can give my creativity almost completely free rein. Anyway, who would not want to work professionally with a huge RC car that drives at up to 120 kilometers per hour - and is subsequently capable of doing so autonomously?!
“Who would not want to work professionally with a huge RC car that drives at up to 120 kilometers per hour - and is subsequently capable of doing so autonomously?!” - replies Matthias to the question about whether he enjoys his work.
Have you always wanted to work in automotive research?
It all turned out that way at some point. I actually grew up researching. I was already researching plants and their reactions to various gases at a young age. It is interesting how plants react with their own gas output and thus communicate, as it were. If you consider a forest, you could see it as a communicating world. Similar to Car2X communication, there is an exchange between the transmitter and the environment here as well.
I was so fascinated by research that, after school, I decided to train as a physics laboratory assistant at an institute for energy and climate research. Afterwards, I completed my bachelor’s degree in physical engineering, while also working in the research laboratory. I was able to live out my enthusiasm for mechatronics to some extent already during my bachelor thesis: As a joint final project, my wife and I got a non-functioning robot arm running again and programmed it so that it could be controlled with a Playstation4 controller.
That was when I wanted to become even more familiar with the fields of mechanics and electronics. So, I decided to take the master program in Mechatronics at Aachen University. My passion for cars finally led me to Telemotive in search of my thesis.
You have been in research for a long time. Why did you decide to write your thesis in a company and not at a chair?
My education and bachelor’s degree were very theoretical, but I am more interested in practical applications. My master program is very suitable for this. That is why I wanted to write my thesis as practically as possible, which is easier in a company than a professorship.
How was your start at Telemotive? Was it hard for you?
No, not at all. I have already read on the internet that Telemotive greatly appreciates an informal environment. When the group leader addressed me in familiar terms on my first day at work, however, I was a little surprised. What I really notice about Telemotive is that from day one, I have felt like a full-value employee - even though I am a student. My supervisor introduced me to the whole team and I became immediately integrated into the group. The cohesion here fascinates me every day, even a few months in. Everyone helps everyone here - and all the time. You know what is on your colleague’s mind and where you might be able to lend a helping hand. All I can say is: I come to work every day with a broad smile on my face and go home with one, too.
“From day one, I have felt like a full-value employee.”
Keyword Telemotive and corporate culture: What do you associate with it?
At Telemotive, everyone can contribute their ideas and always receive constructive feedback. Teamwork and cohesion are very important here. Since my first day here, I have been given a lot of responsibility and can coordinate my own projects. At the same time, I can always contact my supervisor or other colleagues if I have any questions or uncertainties. What also excites me is how open everyone is about mistakes: everyone makes mistakes, but, at Telemotive, they are seen as an opportunity to learn from. The flexible working hours without core hours are also the driving force behind my creativity. They allow me to shape my own working day and perform more productively and efficiently. The start-up mentality is also very helpful: people place less emphasis on superficiality, such as clothing, but, instead, focus on the person behind it. As an employee, you can realize your full potential here and let your creativity run free. In this way, people come up with new ideas and solutions to problems in all areas on a daily basis. And, above all there’s always one thing: looking to the future.
What do you mean by looking to the future?
Telemotive is all about networking. I am convinced that Telemotive can help shape future-oriented and, above all, groundbreaking technologies in an exciting environment. The employees here are thus already today contributing to tomorrow’s road safety.
When you think back to your application process and your time here: what tips can you give to applicants?
A passion for the car and its development is helpful; if you have that, then you will really blossom here. At the same time, you should be enthusiastic about teamwork. There are also projects that you work on by yourself - but ideas live from mutual exchange.
What comes up next for you?
My thesis at Telemotive is slowly coming to an end. However, one thing is already certain for me: I will apply to Telemotive again as soon as possible.
Would you like to live out your passion for the car of tomorrow as well?
Find more information about Telemotive Advance Development here: