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Million-dollar driverless racing challenge coming to Indianapolis

The Most Advanced Autonomous Car Ever Built - The Official IAC Racecar at CES 2021

Step aside, Lewis Hamilton. Rest up, Scott Dixon. There’s a new motor racing gig in town and drivers aren’t needed.

We’re talking about the Indy Autonomous Challenge, a motor race for driverless cars.

The race will take place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway circuit in October 2021, and this week the organizers revealed the car chassis that will house each team’s autonomous technology.

Entrants include 30 teams from public, private, and academic institutions around the world, with a cool $1 million going to the team that crosses the line first. Organizers say the goal of the contest is to encourage students “to imagine, invent, and prove a new generation of automated vehicle software and inspire the next generation of STEM talent.”

To ensure a level playing field, each entrant will be given exactly same racing car — the new-generation Dallara IL-15, powered by Mazda’s 2.0-liter turbocharged MZR-R four-cylinder engine. This leaves competitors to create the all-important autonomous software that will guide their car around the track.

The contest spans five rounds, culminating in the big race in October in which the competitors will be challenged to reach the finish line in 25 minutes or less (averaging around 120 mph) in a 20-lap, multicar drive.

The winning team will bag $1 million, while prizes of $250,000 and $50,000 will go to the teams placing second and third, respectively.

The first round of the contest involved a paper submission outlining the team’s approach to creating an autonomous racing car, with subsequent rounds focused on designing, building, and testing the self-driving vehicle.

The Indy Autonomous Challenge isn’t the onlyevent trying to make a go of autonomous racing. There’s also Roborace, the organizers of which have spent the last few years working on theri own events using self-driving racing cars.

In 2019, a Roborace car hit 175.49 mph, setting a new speed record for driverless cars. Another Roborace car, however, appeared to make a challenge for the word’s silliest race start last year when it left the grid and drove straight into a wall.

There is clearly plenty of work still to be done to create the perfect autonomous racing car, but contests like these are inspiring great minds to work toward that exciting goal. We can’t wait to see what the Indy Autonomous Challenge teams come up with.

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Trevor Mogg
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