The former home of the United States Grand Prix, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) is going to host a race without human drivers on October 23. 21 universities from nine countries will be competing in a first-of-its-kind competition for the IMS called the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC), which includes only autonomous race cars. The teams are fighting for a $1 million prize, which will go to the winning team’s university for supporting further efforts in research and development of autonomous technologies.
The event, organized by non-profit Energy Systems Network and the IMS, aims to help speed up commercialization of autonomous vehicle technology and deployments of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). ADAS systems have been deployed in India, in cars like the MG Astor, and more expensive vehicles from Mercedes and Volvo. In-line with the race’s theme, Boston Robotics’ quadruped robot, Spot, will fill the post of the flag bearer at the race.
The event is actually a nearly two-year long competition. The first two rounds took place in early 2020, and focused on the autonomous software designed by the teams. The teams demonstrated the software’s ability to automate a passenger vehicle in this round, followed by a third round where the teams had to use their tech to safely drive a Dallara IL-5, a modified version of the car used in car racing series Indy Lights.
The third round, which was held in February 2021, was a simulated experience and prepared the teams for the actual IMS circuit. The fourth and fifth rounds are scheduled for later this week and will be actual real-world races where autonomous cars will zip around the circuit.
To be clear, the IAC isn’t the first autonomous car racing event. The Circuito Monteblanco held an event called Roborace back in 2019.