Vehicle Technology

First to Cross the Line: The Future of Motorsports

Overview As the first autonomous racecar competition hosted at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, this race highlighted vehicles specifically designed for high-speed and driverless conditions.

Having made history with the Indy Autonomous Challenge Powered by Cisco in October 2021, Energy Systems Network brought their groundbreaking motorsports to Las Vegas with The Autonomous Challenge @ CES.  

The Future of Racing was CES® 2022 

After initially unveiling the official autonomous racecar at CES 2021, Energy Systems Network returned to CES 2022 with this exciting event, exclusively for CES attendees. As the world’s most influential tech event, there was no better place to showcase advancements in autonomous vehicle technology and driver-assistance systems.   

“Autonomous racing is expanding the boundaries of tech, and we’re thrilled to welcome the Indy Autonomous Challenge to CES,” said Gary Shapiro, CTA® president and CEO. 

Featuring several of the university teams that competed in Indianapolis, including multiple finalists and the winner, the checkered flag dropped on Friday, January 7, at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  

High Speed Autonomy at CES  

Held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Indy Autonomous Challenge brought together teams from across the globe to compete on the track. Speed was a priority, but the competitors also showed off the full range of their vehicles' autonomy. Euroracing, TUM, Polimove and KAIST all brought their best and brightest to the competition. The teams’ vehicles qualified by completing high-speed solo laps. To show the true power of a driverless vehicle, the self-driving machines were tasked with performing high-speed passing on the track to demonstrate that they could navigate around obstacles at high speeds. Polimove took the top prize, making a successful passing move at 167 mph.  

The First Autonomous Racecar Competition of its Kind

Setting the stage for the Autonomous Challenge @ CES, the Indy Autonomous Challenge asked students to “do what some in the automotive industry say is impossible.”  The Challenge encouraged students worldwide to “imagine, invent and prove a new generation of automated vehicle software and inspire the next generation of STEM talent.”  

Teams had to build their vehicles and software using the Dallara IL-15, the official racecar retrofitted with hardware and controls exclusively for the IAC. As students worked through five rounds with progressively harder technical focus areas, their research was used to help overcome prominent barriers in autonomous vehicles to pave the way for next-generation self-driving cars. 

Edge Case Scenarios Solved 

At extremely high operating parameters, obstacle avoidance technologies were required to 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 the University of Pittsburgh competing in the challenge. “Your algorithms have to keep up.” 

It’s not just avoiding unanticipated or fast-approaching obstacles, it’s 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 replaced the physical driver in automated vehicles. Sensing systems and detection algorithms provided 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 racecar drivers react, but now we have to anticipate the actions of a robot.” 

The challenge teams also had to implement sensor systems to perceive vehicle behaviors just as a professional driver would in a traditional racing environment. 

Powertrain Design and Integration 

During the challenge, teams designed and integrated a powertrain — the system that converts engine power into movement — into the Dallara IL-15 which then provided the required levels for a prolonged period of racing at high speeds. 

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

Accelerating Future Innovation  

From ideation and design to building the prototype, assembling the vehicle and testing the cars, the Indy Autonomous Challenge teams were entered into a robust and complex educational process.

Beyond improving the safety and environmental qualities of autonomous vehicles, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Energy Systems Network aimed to drive the use of automated vehicle technologies and fast-track acceptance of self-driving innovations. 

See You at CES 2023

CES returned home to Las Vegas in 2022, welcoming over 44,000 in-person attendees, with 40,000 joining the event digitally. The show was a true global event, with attendees representing 133 countries. Watch the keynote speeches, conference sessions, and more highlights from the show, now available on-demand. 

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