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43 : UTC’s PhDs: our key players for innovation

Dans un monde où l’innovation – en particulier technologique – occupe une place croissante, les compétences des docteurs spécialistes des sciences de l’ingénieur et notamment des docteurs ingénieurs apparaissent de plus en plus stratégiques. L’UTC entend préparer ses étudiants à cette nouvelle donne.

43 : UTC’s PhDs: our key players for innovation

Designing, building tomorrow’s cars

After presenting his thesis on driver-aids, Clément Zinoune joined a special team at the Renault research and development division working on the theme of driverless cars.

Clément gained his UTC degree majoring in Mechanical Engineering, with the elective specialty of Mechatronics and System Robotisation, plus a Master’s degree (in parallel) on, flight dynamics and drone control systems at the University of Cranfield (UK). He could have stopped there (in  terms of his qualifications) but, having spent a semester on a research topic, that convinced him that a PhD would also be in order – this turned out to be a very wise decision.    

In 2011, he was accepted on a CIFRE contract with Renault to do a thesis on driver aids, under the academic supervision of Prof. Philippe Bonnifait, UTC-Heudiasyc. “At the time, Renault was orienting its product policy in favour of driver aids that made good use of the data provided by the vehicles on-board navigation system: for example, warning a driver when he/she takes a road bend too fast (as seen on a road map). The fact is that navigation systems do contain errors. My research was therefore focus on setting up a methodology to identify errors and correct them accordingly: when a vehicle passes the same spot several times, the system compares the real trajectory with what the nav.sat is indicating – this allows you to correct the cartography and make the driver aids more reliable. I did not want to commit myself exclusively to ‘blue sky’ research, i.e., 100% in a laboratory, but preferred to work on innovative subjects with a connection to industrial concerns. For me the CIFRE contract represented a perfect balance”.  

 An efficient bootstrap

Clément Zinoune defended his PhD thesis in 2014 and was immediately recruited to join Renault’s R&D Division, in a newly created unit on a highly strategic subject: driverless cars. “In the beginning, we were two and my role was to develop the cartographic data for the vehicle (directly in connection with my thesis) but also to study what form, what level, of intelligence to add to the navigation on-board system and his was quite novel for me. Today the team has 15 members and my job is to coordinate the development of the various bulldog blocks that constitute the vehicle’s intelligence, each brick having its own pilot system”.

For some of the bricks, in particular vehicle localisation and perception of its environment, Renault is working with UTC-Heudiasyc Lab for whom the driverless vehicle is a flagship research subject. This represents a collaboration which, in March 2017, led to the creation of a joint lab (SIVALab, cf.intra p.2). Young graduate as he is, Clément Zinoune is obviously an active participant.