Energy Systems Network (ESN) and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), organizers of the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC), unveiled at CES 2021 the official racecar that will be autonomously driven by scores of university teams in the world’s first high-speed, head-to-head autonomous race at the Racing Capital of the World on Oct. 23, 2021.
The goal of the IAC is to advance technologies that can speed the commercialization of fully autonomous vehicles and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), leading to increased safety and performance. In addition, the IAC challenges the best and brightest university students worldwide to engage in hands-on engineering.
“The Dallara-built IAC racecar is the most advanced, fastest autonomous vehicle ever developed,” stated Paul Mitchell, president and CEO of ESN. “IAC sponsors are providing radar, lidar, optical cameras and advanced computers, bringing the value of each vehicle to $1 million.”
The IAC, scheduled for October 23 at IMS, will hold a qualifying simulation race during the Indy 500 week in May. The total prize purse is $1.5 million: $1 million awarded to the winning team in October, and an additional $500,000 for winners of hackathons and simulation races, awarded by IAC sponsor, Ansys.
More than 500 university students, PhDs and mentors who excel in artificial intelligence software, have responded to the challenge, representing 39 universities in 11 countries on four continents and 14 U.S. states.
Sebastian Thrun, winner of the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, said that the DARPA race served as inspiration for the IAC. “It proved that robots can drive themselves in very confined environments, but that they don’t have the agility and skill of a really well-trained human race driver to act in extreme situations. IMS is the best place in the world to challenge the robotics community to test self-driving cars. By going into a racing context, we will stretch self-driving cars to the absolute limit.”
The Autonomous Racecar
Since 2002, Dallara has been the sole racecar supplier of the Indy Lights series, and now the modified Dallara IL-15 is the official IAC racecar. The racecar has been retrofitted with hardware and controls to enable automation to enhance safety, control and performance. Components include rugged-edge on-board computing, vehicle-to-vehicle communications, perception systems, high-end graphics processing units, drive-by-wire, and artificial intelligence acceleration and powerful central processing units to run IAC teams’ software and algorithms in the racecar.
One of the challenges for autonomous racing is solving edge case scenarios – challenges that occur only at extreme operating parameters, such as avoiding unanticipated obstacles at high speeds.
“Dallara is the best racecar engineering company in the world, yet designing the chassis for autonomous racing was really challenging,” explained Stefano dePonti, CEO and general manager of Dallara USA. “We know how the world’s best race drivers react in the Dallara in high-speed scenarios, but now we have to anticipate the actions of a robot.”
Innovation at IMS
IMS has been a catalyst and proving ground for motorsport and transportation innovation since its inception in 1909. IMS hosts the crown jewel of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, the Indianapolis 500 — annually the world’s largest single-day sporting event. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES is North America’s premier open-wheel racing series.
“The IAC is going to bring the best minds from around the world to solve a very complex problem, right here at the Racing Capital of the World,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “As the birthplace of motorsports’ innovation, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a fitting setting for this event, and we can’t wait to see the winning entry cross the Yard of Bricks into history.”