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All about the magical non-human car race

By Dhrubaa Ghosh,

Cars without drivers cruised around a race track in a serious competition among students.

The Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) is an international contest for the fastest self-driving car, and was held in Indianapolis, USA.

In October this year, racing cars at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, USA zipped around the track at breakneck speeds – with no one driving them – and a million-dollar prize to be won. Welcome to the international contest for the fastest self-driving car, something that sounds like science fiction, but actually happened. The Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) was a departure from usual races, and even the starting flag was waved by a robotic dog. 

What was the IAC race all about? 
9 teams of college students took part in the IAC. The teams were made up of students from different universities, countries, and even students from different continents. Each team had been given the same car, Dallara IL-15. It’s built like a real race car, only smaller. All teams got the same tools to navigate the cars. These tools included cameras, radar, GPS devices, and sensors. Instead of a driver, the cars had a computer. Each team had to create a software program for driving their car safely race on the race track. 

How tough was the race?  
The competition was surprisingly tough, and only 4 teams made it past the first round, that included an obstacle course. 

In the final round, the car of one team, PoliMOVE, reached 253 km per hour on the straight section of the track while warming up, raising high hopes, but ended up hitting a wall. Another team, MIT-PITT-RW, also unfortunately drove into a wall. The EuroRacing team began with a great first lap at a speed of 224 km per hour. But due to an error in programming, the car stopped early and couldn’t complete driving its second speed lap. Finally, TUM Autonomous Motorsport, a team from the Technical University of Munich, won the $1 million grand prize. Its average speed for 2 laps (all completed) was at 219 km per hour.  

What was gained from the IAC race? 
All teams, including the ones who got eliminated, said they had gained a huge amount of knowledge as a result of the competition. The race’s organizers were happy too, since this race helped improve actual on-the-road safety for all automated cars with drivers.