Ian Murphy is a systems engineer with years of experience among some of the biggest names in Motorsport and the automotive sector. He has recently joined StreetDrone as technical director to help shape our accessible and open test platform with his systems expertise. In this week’s “Meet the Team” feature, Ian explains his background and his thoughts on the AV sphere.
JS: First of all, what made you want to become a part of the StreetDrone Team?
IM: Throughout my career I have enjoyed working with advanced technology and solving technical challenges. Recent developments in autonomous vehicles and robots have been fascinating to observe and I was keen to get involved. When Mark and Mike approached me with the StreetDrone concept, I immediately saw the potential to bring autonomous technology to a wider set of developers, such as the educational sector or smaller start-ups. I was extremely keen to be involved from the beginning of a great concept and to help shape the technical aspects of the products.
JS: Could you tell me a bit about your background?
IM: I started my career at the Ford Motor Company but quickly moved from road cars to racing and spent 10 years working track-side in Formula One for teams including Arrows and Williams. More recently I have been involved with Hybrid and Electric vehicles, both road and race cars, including Formula E. My technical expertise is in Systems Engineering and Systems Integration, including both hardware and software development.
JS: What learning will you take from your previous work into the future with StreetDrone?
IM: Systems Engineering is all about getting various hardware and software components, often from different suppliers, working harmoniously together. For example, it’s not enough to have an excellent autonomous vehicle AI if the sensors on the vehicle are supplying it with corrupt data due to bad wiring.
Solving these kinds of problems, to tight timescales, is a key skill I will bring to StreetDrone. This kind of integration work and troubleshooting has been a feature of all the projects I have worked on recently. Fortunately enough, I enjoy the challenge!
JS: Where do you see the autonomous vehicle market in 3 years and where will StreetDrone fit?
IM: I think by 2020 the majority of manufacturers will offer a limited range of autonomous features on their high-end models. Then the situation will plateau as the ‘low hanging fruit’ will all be picked. Eventually the technology will become cheap enough to be fitted to every vehicle, but the capability will develop more slowly because many driving situations are very challenging for autonomous systems.
This is where StreetDrone can contribute by facilitating the next wave of autonomous vehicle development and speeding up time to market.
JS: What is the biggest systems engineering challenge faced by aspiring AV developers?
IM: The biggest challenge is access to relevant hardware. There are a lot of platforms out there, such as Raspberry Pi, or simulation environments, that offer a lot of learning potential. Ultimately though, any developer has to have access to a true autonomous-ready vehicle to validate all of their simulated results, and this is where StreetDrone will facilitate this.
JS: Outside of the world of AV, what else do you like to do with your time?
IM: Most of my free time is spent with my family. My favourite hobby would be mountain biking, but recently I have started building radio control models with my son. He can fly them much better than I can, but I am better at fixing them when they crash…
JS: Finally, what car will you be driving in 3 years time?
IM: I would very much like to try out an electric vehicle as the majority of my journeys are short enough for range not to be an issue. Maybe a Chevy Bolt if it does become available in the UK!