How Autonomous Indy Car Advances the Tech

After appearing at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this past January with the first high-speed head-to-head autonomous racecar competition, The Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) sped into Orlando a few months later. They arrived in Florida claiming the world’s most advanced autonomous racecar.

This past April, an IAC racecar, a Dallara AV-21 programmed by team PoliMOVE from Italy’s Politecnico di Milano and USA’s University of Alabama set a new land speed world record at the Kennedy Space Center. “We saw what the future holds for autonomous vehicles and credit goes to the entire PoliMOVE team, especially Dr. Brandon Dixon of the University of Alabama,” said Professor Sergio Savaresi, team lead of Politecnico di Milano. “We were running a car operating on algorithms alone, where precision is paramount and any small prediction error could have created a completely different outcome. This test run was exhilarating and we are thrilled with the world record but we’re also excited by the fact that this data will be made available to all, and the industry will benefit from our work and learning.”

An IAC racecar and the PoliMOVE team also visited the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Xponential 2022 conference in the Orange County Convention Center. This record was set with the Dallara AV-21 at Space Florida’s Launch and Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. PoliMOVE’s attempt broke the previous autonomous speed record of 175.49mph (282.42kph) by 16.71mph (26.88kph). The average speed of 192.2mph (309.3kph) was measured over a one kilometer stretch in opposite directions during consecutive runs, as required by the FA International Sporting Code. The peak speed achieved by PoliMOVE’s car was 193.8mph (311.9 kph). The AV-21 is the platform used by all teams in the IAC competitions.

Indy Autonomous Challenge president Paul Mitchell says he is happy with his company’s recent success. He enjoyed starting this year as a high-profile guest at CES. “In January, we announced that members of TUM Autonomous Motorsport, winner of the $1M competition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was spinning off a new company, Driveblocks, and we will be partnering with them in the near future,” said Mitchell.

Operating the Dallara AV-21, PoliMOVE set out to push the limits of a boosted engine package during test runs at Space Florida’s Launch & Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center. The upgraded engine package, capable of delivering 30 percent more horsepower than previous models, will be on all IAC racecars moving forward. Future competitions are already in the works. “The Autonomous Challenge at CES in January pushed our racecars to their limits and maxed out what was possible at the time,” said Mitchell. “Yet here we are just four months later, in another iconic venue, with an upgraded engine package setting yet another world record.”

Dallara CEO Andrea Pontremoli was elated as he watched his project enter the history books for the fastest autonomous racecar in the world. “This record run sets a new bar for the top speed capabilities of autonomous competition vehicles, and we are thrilled to be a part of this future. We’re partnering with software and engineering industries and working together with the best universities of the world to contribute towards the development of fully autonomous transportation.”

Based in Indiana, the IAC is working to establish a hub for performance automation in the state and is harnessing the power of prize competitions to attract the best and the brightest minds from around the globe to further the state-of-the-art technology in safety and performance of automated vehicles. Pontremoli explains that the primary goal of the IAC is to solve real world problems by advancing technology that will speed the commercialization of fully autonomous vehicles and deployments of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). He believes that pushing limits for the entire autonomous community and helping to increase safety and performance are primarily goals, not only in motorsports, but across all modes of commercial transportation.

Sergio Savaresi said his team is constantly mindful of everyday commuting potential. “Exploring the high-speed domain is essential in the development of the ‘emergency-modules’ for Level 4 and Level 5 future cars that will be used on public roads,” said Savaresi. “These extreme high speeds represent a magnifying glass of sorts for all of the critical issues such reaction time, trajectory prediction, control of dynamics and object-recognition. Those must be solved in an autonomous-car stack.”

The Indy Autonomous Challenge engages global STEM-based university teams to program autonomous-modified racecars to run in a series of history-making prize competitions while advancing technology that can speed the commercialization of fully autonomous vehicles and ADAS. “The Indy Autonomous Challenge is working to solve real world problems by advancing technology that will speed the commercialization of fully autonomous vehicles and deployments of advanced driver-assistance systems,” Mitchell. “Our goal is to push limits for the entire autonomous community, helping to increase safety and performance not only in motorsports, but across all modes of commercial transportation.”

The initial call to action for this competition drew 41 university teams signing up to compete more than two years ago. The programs represent well-regarded engineering and technology programs from 14 US states and 11 countries. “We’re a platform to accelerate innovation and each stage of the IAC competition increases in complexity and technical precision because of the amazing talent pool we’ve built,” said Mitchell. “A big part of why we do what we do is to inspire entrepreneurship and empower brilliant minds to go out and lead the industry.”

The IAC team performed test runs at Kennedy for a day before formally recording their speeds. Mitchell said he enjoyed the cohesion of the team at the site. “Because of the IAC, Driveblocks is now going on to develop an autonomy platform for SAE level 4 and 5 applications,” said Mitchell. “It’s universal and adaptive system architecture combined with a set of modular building blocks enables a wide range of applications, from deploying single modules to the entire autonomy platform.” The Indy Autonomous Challenge will return to AUVSI Xponential in 2023, when the event will be hosted in Denver.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *