Self-driving Racecar Sets World Record at Las Vegas Indy Autonomous Challenge

The highlight of CES 2023 for racing fans was the second annual Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC), which saw nine teams representing 17 universities in six countries compete head-to-head with driverless racecars.

Thousands of CES attendees packed the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the racing series, which culminated in a final competition on Jan. 7. Thousands more, who weren’t able to attend, watched via a live simulcast on the IAC’s Twitch account.

Indy Autonomous Racing
Indy Autonomous Racing
Team PoliMOVE celebrates at the awards ceremony for the 2023 CES Indy Autonomous Challenge at the at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Jan. 7. (Image: The Robot Report)

Emerging victorious was Team PoliMOVE from Italy’s Politecnico di Milano and the University of Alabama. PoliMOVE, winner of last year’s IAC at CES race series, set the official autonomous land speed world record on April 27, 2022. That’s when it operated an autonomous Dallara AV-21 at 192.2 mph at Space Florida’s Launch & Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

At the IAC, PoliMOVE’s vehicle set another world record – for an autonomous vehicle on a racetrack – when it achieved a top speed of 180 mph.

“Today was a major step forward in speed, in the complexity of the race, and in overcoming challenging head-to-head situations,” Prof. Sergio Savaresi, PoliMOVE team lead, told The Robot Report. “We are very glad for this success, for the contribution of the Indy Autonomous Challenge, and for all the teams in advancing the technology of A.I. drivers.”

Giving PoliMOVE a run for its money was the Technische Universität München (TUM) team from Germany, which won the inaugural IAC event, held at the Indianapolic Motor Speedway in Oct. 2022. In the final head-to-head competition, PoliMOVE and TUM made more than a dozen laps around the track as the passing speeds continually increased. On the final lap, however, TUM spun out on the racetrack’s banked first turn.

How Autonomous Racing Works

Each IAC team competes with the same racecar, a Dallara AV-21, but programs in their own algorithms for autonomous movement. The car’s processor uses cameras, sensors, radar, and lasers to help make informed decisions about their terrain and opponent within milliseconds.

The autonomous Dallara AV-21 racecars from each team take turns playing the roles of leader/defender and passer/follower. Passes are attempted at speeds that get faster and faster until one or both cars can’t make a pass.

The IAC organizes competitions for university-affiliated teams to compete programming fully autonomous racecars at iconic NASCAR tracks. It began as a $1 million prize competition between 31 universities representing top STEM programs from 10 countries.

Next up for the IAC is a June 2023 event at the famous Monza raceway near Milan, Italy, the first road-racing series for the organization.

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