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Autonomous Race Cars To Compete At The Indianapolis Motor Speedway This October

By Samantha Horton, IPB News | Published on in Sports, Statewide News
The first Indy Autonomous Challenge will take place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Oct. 23. (Samantha Horton/IPB News)
The first Indy Autonomous Challenge will take place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Oct. 23. (Samantha Horton/IPB News)

The Racing Capital of the World will welcome a new race to the track in 2021.

The world’s first head-to-head, high-speed autonomous race will be held this October at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). University students from all over the world will compete at the track and become part of its long history in developing technology.

The first Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) will have autonomous race cars going speeds up to 200 miles per hour in a 50-mile race that will push the advancement of autonomous vehicles and prepare future generations for jobs in the industry.

IMS has been used to pilot and develop new technologies throughout its more than 100 year history.

“Technology didn’t end in the early 1900s here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” said IMS President Doug Boles. “After World War II, when Tony Holman bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it wasn’t just about car technology. Firestone, who has been with us from the very, very beginning has tested technology through their tires here that you today use in your vehicle’s when you drive around.”

Paul Mitchell, CEO of Energy Systems Network and IAC co-organizer of the race, said just as the Indy 500 has pushed the limits of speed, this race will push the limits of autonomous technology.

“To have vehicles interacting with one another, when they’re traveling at you know 175-180 even pushing 200 miles an hour, and the sophistication of the software that’s required to make decisions in real time at those speeds most certainly will advance the state of the art in terms of technology, around vehicle safety, on highway speeds, etc.,” said Mitchell.

He said the race could also help expose more people to autonomous vehicles, however it has not been decided yet if spectators will be able to attend the race Oct. 23.

Thirty teams from all over the world, including one out of Purdue University and on out of IUPUI, will compete for $1.5 million in prize money.

Sebastian Thrun is an expert in artificial intelligence and won a 2005 competition of autonomous vehicles. He said the race will not only advance autonomous technology, but attract talented individuals to the industry.

“The reason to compete in the Indy Autonomous Challenge is to be part of the next generation of self driving car experts,” Thrun said. “And competitions are great places to do this because once you get competitive, you most likely will stop, stop sleeping and work weekends to make sure you win; and winning you should.”

The teams will create their own software for the autonomous vehicles, but will use the same model race car manufactured by Dallara in Indianapolis.

Contact reporter Samantha at shorton@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @SamHorton5.