Internship | Developing an autonomous Dakar rally driver

Planning and control methodologies for high speed autonomous driving in complex terrain.


Den Haag

Education type

university (wo)


Internship and graduation project

Hours a week

Fulltime – 40


Apply now


What will you be doing?

You will investigate, design and implement modules for autonomous planning and control of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs). You will demonstrate new autonomy techniques that enable ground vehicles to maneuver in unstructured off-road terrain at speeds that are no longer limited by the autonomy software or processing time, but only by considerations of sensor limitations, vehicle mechanical limits, and safety. During your internship (or graduation project) you strive to reach performance at par with a human driver, or a tele-operated vehicle. You will:

* Compare different types of planning and/or control methodologies for high-speed, adaptive, off-road autonomous driving. You will include, but are not limited to, explicit model-based approaches, like MPC, as well as learning based techniques, like end-to-end learning.

* Propose and design an algorithmic implementation for a specific off-road terrain condition.

* Implement a demonstrator of your algorithm in simulation or on hardware, assuming as a given the perception capabilities and mechanical constraints of the sensors and platform.

The self-driving car industry is making rapid advances in on-road autonomous mobility of commercial cars; however, off-road autonomy algorithms and capability development has lagged due to the increased complexity of the off-road problem. In contrast to the on-road problem, the off-road environment is more challenging, with three-dimensional surfaces, more obstacle classes, less structure, limited availability of mapping data, lack of large structured data-sets, decreased predictability and no defined road networks or driving rules. The off-road motion-planning problem

is continuous and must be executed in an online adaptive manner. While current on-road autonomy does not directly transfer to the off-road domain, the sensors, processing approaches, perception algorithms and other methods from on-road autonomous vehicles are applicable.

The field of planning and control for autonomous driving is vast and many approaches exist. For instance, when adopting a modular, pipelined, approach for the development of autonomous driving one can distinguish several layers of planning and control. E.g. operational control of throttle and steer angle is mostly reactive, based on vehicle sensors and operates at signal rates of 50+Hz, whereas tactical control (e.g. path planning), based on environmental sensors, can operate at much lower rates. We will tailor projects as much as possible to the student and the student’s interests and capabilities.

The Intelligent Autonomous System(IAS) group at TNO is laying down a technology stack (software and hardware) as a backbone for the development of applications with autonomous unmanned vehicles. Think about drones, small self-driving boats, underwater robots, and ground vehicles. This technology stack is being complemented with a solid, model-based software development methodology and system architecture. Note here that 'model-based' should be placed in the context software development. During the course of your assignment you will have close collaborations with other TNO colleagues and interns working on perception capabilities, software architecting and off-road autonomy.

IAS' work is closely connected with application developers and end-users of unmanned vehicles, such as the Dutch Marine, Dutch Police and underwater maintenance and monitoring industry. These partners expect reliable, operational systems as the result of our projects.

What do we require of you?

You are in the final stages of your degree in artificial intelligence, computer science, physics, mathematics, mechanical engineering or a similar degree and have some track record in the field of automation, control and/or AI. You have experience in programming in Python and/or C++, you are pragmatic and focused on making things work. Next to technical expertise we value communication skills and a client-oriented, results-driven attitude to add value to our clients and the Dutch society as a whole. Our research group is active and social, therefore detailed discussions with colleagues where you explain your ideas are something you like and do not shy away from.

Experience with Linux systems and ROS/ROS2 environments is a nice to have, but can also be acquired or enhanced within the assignment time.

Due to the nature of the location where you will be working, a security screening by the Dutch Government (paid for and organized by TNO) is required. This may take up to 3 months, bear this in mind when applying. Generally speaking, we try to tailor projects as much as possible to the student and the student’s interests and capabilities.

What can you expect of your work situation?

TNO is an independent research organisation whose expertise and research make an important contribution to the competitiveness of companies and organisations, to the economy and to the quality of society as a whole. Innovation with purpose is what TNO stands for. With 3000 people we develop knowledge not for its own sake but for practical application. To create new products that make life more pleasant and valuable and help companies innovate. To find creative answers to the questions posed by society. We work for a variety of customers: governments, companies, service providers and non-governmental organisations. Working together on new knowledge, better

products and clear recommendations for policy and processes. In everything we do, impact is the key. Our product and process innovations and recommendations are only worth something if our customers can use them to boost their competitiveness.

You will work in the Intelligent Autonomous Systems group: a young, passionate and creative group of professionals (40 people) specialized in the development of groundbreaking applications in the fields of autonomous systems and intelligent robotics. One third of the group has started working for us in the past two years.

What can TNO offer you?

You want to work on the precursor of your career; an internship gives you an opportunity to take a good look at your prospective future employer. TNO goes a step further. It’s not just looking that interests us; you and your knowledge are essential to our innovation. That’s why we attach a great deal of value to your personal and professional development. You will, of course, be properly supervised during your internship and be given the scope for you to get the best out of yourself. Naturally, we provide suitable internship compensation.

Application process

For this vacancy it is required that the AIVD issues a security clearance after conducting a security screening. Please visit for more information the AIVD website

Has this vacancy sparked your interest?

Then please feel free to apply on this vacancy! For further questions don’t hesitate to contact us.

Due to Covid-19 and the consequent uncertainties and restrictions, students who are not residing in the Netherlands may currently not be able to start an internship or graduation project at TNO.

Contact: Michiel Baar, van den
Phone number: +31611517815

Note that applications via email and third party applications are not taken into consideration.


Apply now



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