- Officially, it was the second round of the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC).
- The first round held last October at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was only a time trial, while Friday’s Las Vegas event featured two cars at a time in lead races. -headed.
- Once the cars were going over 150 mph, it wasn’t all that different to cheering on two ‘normal’ race cars that raced shoulder to shoulder to the checkered flag.
âLadies and gentlemen, start your software. And with these historic words, spoken by Karen Chupka, CES Executive Vice President, Consumer Technology Association, the world’s first-ever race for self-driving racing cars has been launched at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Officially, it was the second round of the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC), but it turned out that the first “race” held last October at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was just a cross-run. -shows where nine autonomous racing cars have driven one at a time. the famous oval.
This time, the organizers have created a knockout race with two cars on the track at a time, much like the way drag races are played.
âThe software algorithms required to run two cars side-by-side at up to 170 mph require a huge jump in resources compared to racing solo,â said Paul Mitchell, President and CEO of Energy Systems Network, the company that produces the IAC, ahead of the start of the racing action on Jan. 7.
Halo, a driverless Kia remotely controlled by an engineer sitting in front of a monitor in the media room, served as the official rhythm car, leading each of the teams from the pit lane so they could complete warm-up laps at speeds of 65 to 80 mph before the start of each lap. The Kia engineer / driver communicated with the modified car using T-Mobile’s 5G network.
All self-driving racing cars are based on a modified Indy Lights racing car built by Dallara and powered by a 388 hp turbocharged 2.0-liter Honda (K20C) engine. Each cockpit is filled with identical electronic guts, including three Lidars, three Radars, six cameras, computers and sensors. Coincidentally, the weight of all this electronics closely matches the weight of a human driver, which means Dallara didn’t need to do a lot of suspension reengineering.
Race cars were programmed to perform laps at increasingly faster speeds. On each lap, the car in front was the defender and it was up to the second car, the attacker, to safely pass the defender. If he was successful he then became the defender and the other was referred to as the attacker. Passes could only be made along the front straight.
It sounds boring, but in reality the final race, which pitted the two cars (PoliDRIVE and TUM) which also proved to be the fastest at Indy, was far from boring.
Once the cars were going over 150 mph, it wasn’t all that different to cheering on two ‘normal’ race cars that raced shoulder to shoulder to the checkered flag. Eventually the race ended when a simple robot error caused TUM, the car that had just been passed, sped over the grass right on the start / finish line. Surprisingly, he was able to control the rotation without heading towards the wall. Subsequently, one of the team, after viewing the video, said that TUM just entered a little too much of the steering correction, which caused it to spin around 170 mph on the exit. turn four.
The winning car completed the lap but stopped at turn four when it felt the other car was off the track. Both cars were then cleared to the start / finish line to receive their prizes: a check for $ 150,000 for PoliDRIVE, the winner and $ 50,000 for TUM who finished second. TUM earned $ 1,000,000 taking first place from Indy and is now adding $ 50,000 to their winnings.
A jubilant teacher, Sergio M. Savaresi, founder of the winning team of Politecnico di Milano in Italy, said: “We are Italians, the race is in our blood”. Several students and professors at the University of Alabama also helped the Italians.
TUM, Indy’s grand prize, was developed by students at the Technische UniversitÃ¤t MÃ¼nchen in Germany.
Okay. so what does all of this really mean in the real world?
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Software and mechanical engineers have been working on autonomous vehicles for more than three decades. However, it wasn’t until 2005 that the true capabilities of autonomous vehicles finally came to fruition in the DARPA Grand Challenge when Stanley, a VW Touareg modified by students at Stanford University, took an off-road course. just south of Las Vegas.
Since then, dozens of companies have worked on the design of an autonomous vehicle for everyday use. Needless to say, the task turned out to be much more difficult than expected for anything other than low speed deliveries and use in controlled environments.
These IAC race cars help engineers develop ever faster reaction times and the ability to detect many inputs, such as changes in surface, wind, and proximity to other vehicles at much higher speeds.
As Mitchell says, âIt takes motor racing back to its roots as an ideal arena for pushing the boundaries of new technology. He even sees crossovers with ordinary human-driven racing cars. “Some of these algorithms could be adapted to help make F1 cars faster and safer by providing real-time input.” Maybe that’s why we saw IndyCar Series owner Sam Schmidt, who lives in Las Vegas, in the pits, watching the proceedings intently. We bet there were other less recognizable race team staff as well.
On the other hand, perhaps we are witnessing the beginnings of a real autonomous multi-car race? May be. Surprisingly, it was quite epic to see two driverless cars pass each other at 160mph on an oval track.
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