17th June 2020
Edgar Tamayo Cascan, Field Applications Engineer at Oxbotica
Edgar Tamayo Cascan
Field Applications Engineer
Proud Barceloní Edgar has travelled the world from Stockholm to Singapore in pursuit of his dream – to help develop driverless cars. Now, as a Field Applications Engineer, he gets to test the most advanced autonomous vehicles in Europe, helping revolutionise the future of mobility.
Read more about what it takes to be out on the roads with Oxbotica putting the theory into practice and about how for Edgar, Universal Autonomy is a way of life.
What made you want to join Oxbotica and what were you doing before then?
In January 2016, I graduated from Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Barcelona with a degree in Industrial Engineering. I then moved to Stockholm, Sweden, where I pursued a Master of Science in Vehicle Engineering at KTH.
After I completed my Master’s in 2018, I worked as a Project Manager in the Integrated Transport Research Lab (ITRL), coordinating the development of regenerative and mechanical braking-by-wire in a driverless concept car.
Following that, I worked as a Research Assistant in Singapore. There, I implemented the Traffic Conflict Technique into their microscopic traffic simulator, allowing researchers to assess the safety of autonomous vehicle software.
Now I am a Field Applications Engineer with Oxbotica, which means that I get to test the most advanced driverless vehicles in Europe, on the road. Right from the get go, I knew I had a passion for autonomous vehicles – and all of my previous work experience has only helped to confirm that. There are a lot of start-ups in the space, but very few established companies so I was thrilled to get the opportunity to work for a company with such a prestigious reputation.
Why did you decide to move to the UK?
I’ve travelled all over the world with my Masters and work placements, so I was already primed and ready to move wherever the most exciting job came up. I was actually also interviewing with another company in Berlin at the time, but when I read about the Driven programme here in the UK – and saw that Oxbotica was putting fully autonomous cars on the road in London – I knew it was where I needed to be.
“When I read about the Driven programme here in the UK – and saw that Oxbotica was putting fully autonomous cars on the road in London – I knew it was where I needed to be.”
How would you describe the culture at Oxbotica?
The whole ethos of the company is really exciting, it’s very much like Silicon Valley in that respect. The purpose of the business is very clear – we’re rooted in academia, but we are here to solve the future of mobility. It’s a big challenge and the type of people who work here really want to tackle it head on.
There is this sense that no one will rest until we’ve solved it. The pursuit of Universal Autonomy is not just about making a product that works, it describes our whole way of life at Oxbotica – the ambition is to completely redesign the way we move, not just here in the UK but everywhere, and that is really exciting.
What do you like most about working at Oxbotica?
Oxbotica offers you the freedom to learn and grow, as well as access to the people and resources you need to explore all of the different opportunities available in your field. I learnt how to programme through my Masters, but of course you need to practise. If you don’t use it, you forget it easily! So, I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to finesse my skills.
“If you are lucky to work in a company that is on the verge of growing in huge numbers, you can continue to grow too. You can be a part of something really special.”
I have never seen so many brilliant people together in one place, and all super motivated. You find inspiration in others – whether that’s your boss, the heads of department or the field teams – because they are all so passionate about what they do. You get caught up in the momentum. If you are lucky to work in a company that is on the verge of growing in huge numbers, you can continue to grow too. You can be a part of something really special.
What team do you currently work in and what do they do?
I’m a Field Applications Engineer. My role is to be the eyes of the company. I’m always in the vehicles, we do a lot of the off-loading of data manually. All the developers work on different aspects of the vehicle, to enable it to behave in a certain way. My role is to be in the vehicle and see how new features and applications all work together.
I then talk to the developers, and help to refine how the vehicle responds. There’s a lot of communication back and forth, so that we can filter out any issues and specify the types of behaviour we want. My role is more about communicating the code to other teams, rather than diving into it. However, clearly the more I understand how the script works, the easier it is to work towards a solution.
Does it get lonely working on your own?
Although all of the Field Engineers work independently, it’s never felt like I work alone. It is a close knit team. For example, I started the job back in January 2019, and my colleague Ashkan joined us a couple of months later, and since then we have become close friends. He has a similar role and we’ve had the opportunity to learn from each other by talking about the programmes we each work on. It’s easier to reach your potential when you have a strong support network, and Oxbotica has become that to me. A home away from home.
“It’s easier to reach your potential when you have a strong support network, and Oxbotica has become that to me. A home away from home.”
In my department, my boss is the only one who is English; our other colleagues are Canadian, Turkish, Hungararian, Romanian, Indian and Pakistani. It doesn’t really feel like an international community at all though – it’s really cohesive.
I think it’s this energy, the desire to all learn from each other that makes us all feel like part of one single team – whether you’re based here in Oxford or overseas, whether you write the code or, like me, test the code. It helps you see how your job contributes towards the bigger picture.
What excites you most about the future of mobility and autonomy?
I think autonomy will give us a lot more freedom. You see hundreds of cars on the roads today, and each of them has a driver whose time is solely devoted to operating that vehicle. If you didn’t have to drive, you would have so much more time to get on with other things.
And, for anyone who is unable to drive, it would afford them control over their mobility. Whether that’s through access to a vehicle, or by overcoming a disability – it opens a lot of doors to people.
How do you see your career growing with Oxbotica?
I love my department and the team I work with. In the future, I would love to take the opportunity to work on implementing our technology into projects all over the world. For me, it would be the natural progression – to go from testing the technology, to delivering it to our customers.