Design, Sourcing & Packaging

First to Cross the Line: Designing an Autonomous Racecar

Overview The Indy Autonomous Challenge, the first head-to-head, high-speed autonomous race taking place at the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will feature an advanced, uniquely designed racecar developed specifically for the ulltra-fast and driverless conditions of the challenge.

Led by Energy Systems Network in partnership with the world-renowned Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC), set to take place in October 2021, is a first-of-its-kind, head-to-head, high-speed autonomous vehicle race.

The challenge, which exhibited at CES® 2021, aims to encourage students around the world to “imagine, invent and prove a new generation of automated vehicle software and inspire the next generation of STEM talent,” the challenge organizers said.

All challenge teams must use the official racecar to design their vehicles and software. The Dallara IL-15 designed for the IAC has been retrofitted with hardware and controls to enable automation.

Technical focus areas and considerations that each team must consider, working with the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research, will in fact help overcome prominent barriers in autonomous vehicles and pave the way for next-generation self-driving cars.

Explore a few of the challenges and focus areas that go into building a racecar ready for the world’s first autonomous, high-speed race.


Solving Edge Case Scenarios

At extremely high operating parameters, obstacle avoidance technologies that are required reach another level.

“You’re traveling at such a fast rate that a lot of these sensors, by the time you get a new update, you’re already multiple meters ahead,” said Nayana Suvarna, a student from University of Pittsburgh competing in the challenge. “Your algorithms have to keep up.”

It’s not just avoiding unanticipated or fast-approaching obstacles, its doing so while maintaining vehicular control to ensure safety.


Drive-by-Wire Chassis Control Systems and Vehicle Dynamics

Electronic actuators and control systems, including steering, throttle control, shifting, braking and more replace the physical driver in automated vehicles. Sensing systems and detection algorithms that will be built on the vehicle provide functional safety for these systems.

“Designing the chassis for autonomous racing was really challenging,” explained Stefano dePonti, CEO and general manager of Dallara USA. “We know how the world’s best race car drivers react, but now we have to anticipate the actions of a robot.”

The challenge teams are also tasked with implementing sensor systems that can detect vehicle behaviors in the same way a professional driver might detect in a normal racing environment.


Powertrain Design and Integration

The powertrain of a vehicle is what encompasses the components that convert the engine’s power into movement for the vehicle. In the challenge, teams are asked to design and integrate a powertrain into the Dallara IL-15 that will provide the power levels required for racing at high speeds for a prolonged period of time.

The systems must also power onboard computing and software while still maintaining the packaging requirements of the aerodynamic racing vehicle.


From ideation and design to building the prototype, assembling the vehicle and testing the cars, the Indy Autonomous Challenge teams are deep in a robust and complicated — yet educational — process.

Beyond improving safety and environmental qualities of autonomous vehicles, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Energy Systems Network aim to raise the acceptance and use of automated vehicle technologies through the challenge and accelerate future self-driving innovations.

On-demand programming from the all-digital CES 2021, including exhibitor spotlight sessions, is now available for all to view. The industry-changing insights and announcements shared by tech visionaries at CES 2021 are key to the continued growth and advancement of your business and our tech ecosystem. With that in mind, we’ve opened the CES sessions to everyone.

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