Intel awards science fair scholarship to teenager's self-driving car

Intel has awarded its $75,000 scholarship at its international science and engineering fair late last week, giving the funds to 19-year-old high schooler Ionut Budisteanu of Romania. Budisteanu's project? A self-driving car, which successfully navigated through 47 out of 50 driving simulations and cost $4,000 to create. Rather than using the expensive 3D radar used by Google, the student uses a webcam.

The Gordon E. Moore Award was one of three scholarships given to students who participated in the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Awards, with the other two (both $50,000) going to Eesha Khare of Saratoga, California, and Henry Lin of Shreveport, Louisiana. In Budisteanu's case, it was the artificial intelligence used in his project that earned him the grand honor.

The project involved using webcams and a radar to control the autonomous vehicle, with the projected cost being $4,000 for the system, quite a price difference over the systems being created by Google and other companies. The AI self-driving system monitored the car in real-time, and could detect all the various objects and hazards a driver would come across, such as other cars and items placed in the street.

The driving (ahem) force behind his project was the potential safety that self-driving cars offer, with the instances of crashes possibly decreasing as technology takes the wheel instead of humans. In an interview with NBC News, the student said: "87 percent of the car accidents are only because of human mistakes. They don't see the cars, they don't see the traffic signs, [while] the self-driving car will see everything."

As far as the other two award recipients go, Lin received a scholarship for his galaxy clusters simulation, which provides researchers with a means to better understand astrophysics. Khare received an award for her tiny device that can charge a mobile's battery in 30 seconds or less. The three were selected among 1600 participants.