Nine teams representing 21 universities go head-to-head at Indianapolis this Saturday — but there aren’t any drivers.
It may be beyond redundant to say, “we live in a strange time”, but that’s one way to describe the sight of nine cars, but zero drivers at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this Saturday. It’s part of the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC), as teams pitch their tech prowess against one another for a shot at a $1 million prize.
University students were all given the same car, an Italian Dallara AV-21, with identical equipment. Same powertrain, same cameras, same GPS capability and sensors. A computer replaces the driver in the hot seat, of course, and it’s down to code to make the difference to see which team comes out the quickest. Unlike your usual Indy 500 race, though, the cars will not take to the track at the same time. Each team will run individually, with the winner being the quickest over two full-speed laps. In addition to the university teams, about 1,500 high school students in STEM programs will attend the race.
Yahoo News quotes Matteo Savaresi, a professor at Politecnico in Milan, a university whose PoliMOVE team works in partnership with the University of Alabama. “If people get used to seeing cars like these going 300 kilometers per hour (186 mph)…and they don’t crash, they may eventually think that such cars are safe at 50 kilometers per hour.”
In addition to demonstrating the capability of autonomous vehicles, these teams aim to “develop a generation of talent,” Savaresi said. After the race Saturday, some teams plan to make their code open source — publicly available for inspiration and further development in the field.
Would you check out an Indianapolis 500 race with no drivers? If you are interested, the event will stream on the IAC website at 1 PM Eastern, and on Twitch at @IndyAChallenge.