Vehicle Technology

The Driving Future is Ultra-Fast, Fully Autonomous

Overview Going for a third pass across the Las Vegas finish line, the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) returns to CES this January with autonomous vehicle tech and an upgraded engine for speeds that far exceed last year's 167 mph. As before, the challenge is sure to set audiences’ hair on fire with speed, technical ingenuity and design that emphasizes safety without compromising performance.

The competition, organized by Energy Systems Network, pits university teams worldwide in a contest designed to jump-start the commercialization of fully autonomous vehicles. At the same time, it aims to accelerate student achievement in science, technology, engineering and math. Teams compete in races that culminate on the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway using specific, organizer-provided vehicle hardware. Last October, teams competed for a purse of $1.5 million.


Racing for Road-Worthy Driverless Tech

After two consecutive years displaying automotive breakthroughs to CES attendees, IAC is set again to refute skeptics’ claims that self-driving cars are a dream for a distant future. Only last year, IAC teams’ vehicles performed high-speed maneuvers, modeling mechanical feats that successfully anticipated car and robot-driver actions. Control systems that include steering, throttle control, shifting and braking already replace the physical driver in these vehicles. Sensing systems and detection algorithms provide operation stability.

All this and speed, too. Only four months after breaking performance barriers at CES, the IAC reported that its Dallara AV-21 racecar smoked the Kennedy Space Center runway at a record-breaking 192.2 mph. The autonomous vehicle housed an upgraded engine package capable of delivering 30% more horsepower than previous models.

At this rate of technical advancement, and with the best being bested in less than 20 weeks, high-performing and fully road-worthy autonomous vehicles may be ready for retail years earlier than expected.

Autonomous Vehicle Milestones

After its start in November 2019 with autonomous racing rounds and hackathons, the IAC debuted at CES in January 2021. The exhibit, and the one that followed at CES 2022, showcased automotive and engineering genius.

 CES 2021: Autonomous Racing Makes its Las Vegas Debut

The world gets a closer look at the Dallara IL-15. This advanced, uniquely designed racecar was developed specifically for ultra-fast and driverless conditions. It demonstrated state-of-the-art technologies for obstacle avoidance and stability for racing over prolonged periods.

CES 2022: The Checkered Flag Drops at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Exclusively for CES attendees, the challenge cars lined up for a head-to-head competition on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The self-driving machines were tasked with performing high-speed passing on the track with the top prize going to PoliMOVE after a successful pass at 167 mph. 

Speaking of the CES 2022 experience, Paul Mitchell, president and CEO of Energy Systems Network, said, “I am pumped about the idea of bringing these cars to CES…where people can see them and look at the technology. They are the most advanced autonomous vehicles in the world." Mitchell discusses the challenge, and the technology, in this "Insider Look" video interview with James Kotecki.

An Open Road to Future Innovation

From ideation and design to building the prototype and testing, the IAC has fostered a robust learning process while it has advanced driverless tech by, many would agree, orders of magnitude.

 While regulatory and other hurdles remain on the road to full commercial availability, innovators ultimately prevail. Tomorrow’s fully and safely autonomous vehicles may be here sooner than expected. Doubters and visionaries alike can expect to see what’s next, and see it first, at CES.

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