Autonomous Kart Racing Returns to IMS

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The races will feature both manned and autonomous karts. (photo courtesy of Purdue Motorsports) The races will feature both manned and autonomous karts. (photo courtesy of Purdue Motorsports)

Purdue University Motorsports will Tuesday begin the annual evGrand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The two-day event will feature high school and college teams competing in their electric karts, as well as autonomous karts, as part of the Student Karting World Finals.

This is the second year for autonomous kart racing at the event. E.J. Williams, an EV expert and part of the support staff for the evGrand Prix, says autonomous technology changes everything when it comes to electric vehicle racing. 

"You're no longer engineering a powertrain; you're engineering an actual driver," said Williams. "The sensors, computer and software that teams must develop take the role of the driver, which means you have to get it right in order to even navigate the track. Without the right sensors and experienced algorithms to interpret the data and control of the kart, it would be like sticking a driver in a race car and blindfolding him. You have to give your kart the ability to ‘see’ and you have to give it experience."

The college division will compete in a manned kart race beginning at 4:00 p.m. Tuesday. The college autonomous division will race at 2:00 p.m. Wednesday, followed by the high school division and its manned race at 4:00 p.m. 

The colleges taking part in the event include:

  • Purdue University (West Lafayette)
  • Purdue University Northwest
  • Anderson University
  • Kettering University
  • Kennesaw State University
  • Bowling Green University
  • Virginia Tech
  • Ivy Tech Community College
  • Northwest Missouri State University

The high schools and technical career training centers involved in this year's event include:

  • Ben Davis High School (Indianapolis)
  • Carroll High School (Fort Wayne)
  • Castle High School (Newburgh)
  • Clarksville High School
  • Clinton Central Junior-Senior High School (Michigantown)
  • Clinton Prairie Junior-Senior High School (Fortville)
  • Decatur Central High School (Indianapolis)
  • Greenwood High School
  • Heritage Christian School (Indianapolis)
  • Hobart High School
  • Fort Wayne Homestead High School
  • Indiana Math and Science Academy of Indianapolis
  • Jennings County High School (North Vernon)
  • Lafayette Jefferson High School
  • Lowell High School
  • New Castle Career Center
  • North Lawrence Career Center (Indianapolis)
  • Paoli Junior-Senior High School 
  • Rensselaer Central High School
  • Rochester Community High School
  • Speedway High School
  • Plano Senior High School (Texas)
  • Hughes STEM High School (Cincinnati, Ohio)
  • Main CTE (Park Ridge, Illinois)

"The objectives of this Purdue-hosted series are simple – train students for the technologies of their future, change the public’s perceptions and fears of  autonomous transportation, reduce automobile deaths and serious injuries as well as reduce emissions, and make significant improvements in efficiencies in public and private transportation," said Danny White, manager of Purdue Motorsports.

The races are part of the daily date admission at IMS. 

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