SPEEDWAY - An all-electric, autonomous racing division with strong connections to Indiana has been launched at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Purdue University is teaming up with Columbus-based LHP Engineering Solutions and Bolton University in England to add the division to its existing evGrand Prix program. The series will begin in May of 2018 and include vehicles controlled remotely, blending the disciplines of mechanical and electrical engineering with information technology.

Purdue Chemical Engineering Professor Jim Caruthers says the program allows students to work with the technology of the future. "The autonomous division of the evGrand Prix is a major technology step forward," he said in a news release. "It also enables the bringing together of advanced IT technologies with mechatronics and electric vehicles. This event will be STEM at the highest level."

LHP is a supplier for Cummins Inc. (NYSE: CMI) and Chief Executive Officer David Glass says heavy engineering companies need to be "in front" of the emerging world of autonomous vehicles. "What I'm trying to do as a supplier of engine solutions and technologies is to help them get out in front and handle some of the future needs around autonomy and EV," he told Inside INdiana Business Multimedia Journalist Mary-Rachel Redman during an event Tuesday at IMS. Glass says functional safety is a serious concern. "In the future, you've got a semi truck that's driving itself and it goes out of control -- you know, you can't have that." Glass adds "now, we've got vehicles on the road that will actually have a more complicated driving situation than controlling an airplane in the sky and they'll have to learn the driving habits of other, actual human-driven vehicles alongside figuring out how to maneuver on the road."

Glass says the partnership came together through discussions with Caruthers about internships and finding talent that could either work for LHP or its partners.

The program's goal is to prepare students to build fully-autonomous vehicles for the 2019 racing season.