Thursday , February 25 2021
CES

CES 2021: NASCAR Robots, Start Your Engines

The phrase “Drivers, start your engines” has long been associated with the Indy 500 and NASCAR. But, what about cars without drivers? On October 23, the move to driverless vehicles will receive a boost from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Energy Systems Network when university student teams race autonomous vehicles for a million-dollar prize.

Several events at the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which ran digitally January 11-14, focused on the upcoming Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC). The IAC race will unveil the world’s first autonomous racecar at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). The development of the autonomous vehicle fits in to the IMG’s long history of encouraging new automotive technology.

The Challenge Idea

The idea for the Indy Autonomous Challenge grew out of the success of the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge. DARPA (The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the same people who brought you the Internet, pushed the idea of and encouraged R&D into driverless vehicles.

All the teams start with the same car

The current challenge will encourage not only driverless vehicles, but the deployment of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). Very rudimentary driver-assistance systems in today’s cars sound a warning when you are about to back into something, or flash a tiny light in your sideview mirror when another vehicle gets close. Racing autonomous vehicles, close together at 200 mph, will provide a platform for testing new advanced ADAS technology which should result in safer driving for all types of cars.

The Teams

Student teams at tax-exempt universities worldwide accepted the challenge to create software that ensures precision control of vehicles at high speeds. This will not only increase safety at the race itself, but will reduce fatalities on public roadways in the future.

Software is key to safety

So far, students from 37 universities that excel in AI software and autonomous vehicle engineering have registered to compete. They come from universities in 11 countries on four continents, including 14 U.S. states. Some of the teams combine multiple schools. Each university team will retain ownership of the software they develop for the IAC.

Some teams still need more collaborators. You can learn about the teams and maybe help by checking here.

The Race

Preparation for the race began last May with a series of workshops and hackathons. The teams will test their software on a VREXPERIENCE Driving Simulator, developed by the Ansys company. The simulator will allow teams to test their software on a simulation of the IMS track using a simulation of the actual vehicle, the modified Dallara IL-15, which will be used for the real-world race.

Students at Clemson admire their work

The teams will meet monthly for design reviews and receive other feedback as software development continues. The next step will be a simulation race in May. The winning team in the simulation will receive a $150,000 prize from Ansys.

Preparation for the live race will begin with trials at IMS in June, September, and October. Cars must complete 20 laps around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) oval for a total of 50 miles.

The final October 23 race may be open to the public depending on the COVID-19 situation. IMS will consider other viewing options. To stay up on developments regarding the Indy Autonomous Challenge follow @IndyAChallenge on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Reddit. #IAC2021

You can watch a three-minute history of innovation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the upcoming challenge, below.

About Leo Sopicki

Writer, photographer, graphic artist and technologist. I focus my creative efforts on celebrating the American virtues of self-reliance, individual initiative, volunteerism, tolerance and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.

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