Organizers of the Indy Autonomous Challenge have unveiled the racecar that will be used in the first head-to-head, driverless race to be held this fall at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Teams from universities around the world will use the open-wheel car designed by Italy-based Dallara, which houses its U.S. headquarters in Speedway in a 50-mile race at IMS as part of the $1 million prize competition.
In a recent interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, IMS President Doug Boles says each team will have the same car to work with, which will shine a spotlight on their own innovations.
“The tires are the same. The engines are the same. The aerodynamic setups are the same,” said Boles. “So what’s really on display here is going to be the technology inside it that’s operating the vehicle and it’s not just programming it to go around the track once; it’s programming it to go around the track for 50 miles at 180 miles per hour plus with other cars and try to figure out how to navigate and be the first car to cross the yard of bricks.”
The cars are valued at more than $1 million each and are outfitted with high-tech sensors, radar, optical cameras and advanced computing in place of a cockpit in which a driver would traditionally sit. When the car was unveiled, organizers said they expect to see as many as 15 cars on the track at the same time.
“These are real racecars. For those people who are Indy 500 fans and been out to the Speedway, they know that you got to have speed if you’re going to be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” said Paul Mitchell, chief executive officer of Indianapolis-based Energy Systems Network. “These vehicles will be going 180, pushing 200 miles an hour in a real, open-wheel racecar that will look familiar except that there’ll be no driver in it; it’ll be operated by the computer and really the robot driver, if you will, that’s inside that vehicle.”
Mitchell says the competition brings the focus on innovation from around the world back to Indiana, and could have a residual impact with corporate entities around the globe.
“There’s no hotter topic in industry and innovation than artificial intelligence, data analytics, and this is really an AI race,” said Mitchell. “So the universities and the team members that are competing, they’re not just going to go into the automotive industry. Certainly, some of them will and I know probably some of them will wind up working for teams that race in the Indy 500, but what our hope is that this will lead to connecting this talent base to all of the industries across the state of Indiana that are looking for AI talent and create new relationships and linkages between these universities, this pool of entrepreneurial students and the Hoosier State for years to come.”
In a January interview, Penske Entertainment Corp. CEO Mark Miles told Inside INdiana Business Reporter Wes Mills the technology developed through the competition could have an impact on motorsports, particularly when it comes to safety.
“I think the high-speed maneuvering technology, what we’ll learn in that regard, it could be the thing that would be most impactful for racing going forward,” said Miles. “I think about IndyCars, which are already going so fast – and they can go faster – really, it’s safety that’s the limiting factor for the speeds that we have on track today and if, out of all this, we can find ways to thrill more fans by going faster and having the technology to make that more safe, then that’s a home run for us potentially in the future.”
Penske Entertainment Corp. owns IMS and INDYCAR. Boles says having a competition like the Indy Autonomous Challenge brings the Speedway back to its roots of innovation in the early 20th Century.