Purdue, West Point to Build Autonomous Race Car
Purdue University is partnering with the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to build an autonomous race car for the Indy Autonomous Challenge in 2021. The partners have formed Black & Gold Autonomous Racing and will debut the car alongside other collegiate teams next October at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Purdue says teams have been preparing for the event since 2019. The challenge features a series of events where teams address topics like artificial intelligence, sensors, and data science in the operation of high-speed autonomous race cars.
“They, as well as all the other teams, are working on issues of how does an autonomous race car pass another race car, speed up, slow down if there is a caution or stop if a race is red-flagged, or even pull into the pits and exit safely to get back onto the track,” said Danny White, manager of Purdue Motorsports and managing director of the evGrand Prix. “These are really complicated tasks that we take for granted.”
The first place team will be awarded $1 million. Second place will be awarded $250,000 and $50,000 will go to the third team to cross the finish line in 25 minutes or less in a head-to-head, 20-lap race of driverless Dallara Indy Lights vehicles around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.
According to the university, challenge events include themed hackathons, research papers, simulation races, and participation in Purdue’s autonomous evGrand Prix at IMS. The challenge is an opportunity for students to develop and test algorithms as well as address challenges related to navigation at high speeds.
“The technical challenges are very rich in a sense that they involve a broad range of problems across mechanical, electrical and computer engineering fields,” said Aly El Gamal, assistant professor in Purdue’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “The opportunity to compete against top research labs in the world in this challenge is very exciting, as we get to observe the behavior of their algorithms in challenging situations and compare that to the solutions we implemented.”
According to El Gamal, Black & Gold placed second in the fastest lap challenge and scored sixth overall at the hackathon in September.
Purdue says El Gamal is advising five graduate students and is working with the more than 30 undergraduate students who are developing software, electrical, navigation and mechanical systems.