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Driverless Cars Speed Through Texas Motor Speedway

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Texas Motor Speedway recently hosted the Indy Autonomous Challenge | Image by Josh Carter, The Dallas Express

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The Texas Motor Speedway recently hosted the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC), where driverless race cars were scheduled to speed around the track to demonstrate their capabilities.

On Friday, November 11, the IAC showcased Indy cars that essentially drive themselves using artificial intelligence and advanced technology, such as the IAC Dallara AV-21, the most technologically advanced, fastest autonomous race car ever assembled with a bulletproof package of equipment.

The vehicle includes lidar, radar, and optical camera sensors, converging with screamingly quick on-board rugged-edge computing and communications, coupled with cutting-edge artificial intelligence algorithms. Lidar, which stands for Light Detection Ranging, targets an object or surface with a laser and measures the time for the reflected light to return to the receiver to determine distance.

The IAC organizes racing competitions between university teams from around the world. Teams create and program fully autonomous race cars and compete in a series of events on iconic racetracks, such as the Texas Motor Speedway, that push these autonomous race cars to their absolute limit.

The teams competed in a series of challenges to advance technology that can speed the commercialization of fully autonomous vehicles and deployments of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) to increase safety and performance.

Dr. Danilo Caporale is the Team leader and Control System Engineer at Technology Innovation Institute’s (TII) Autonomous Robotics Research Center (ARRC). TII is an Abu Dhabi government-funded research institution focusing on areas such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and autonomous robotics.

Caporale spoke with The Dallas Express about the technology being used and how the IAC was formulated. “Autonomous racing is something that started, I think seriously in 2015, 2016, and the IAC came a few years later around 2020 when there was this idea of making a race with 10 cars at Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” Caporale said.

“And there was this call for university teams to come together and compete and at that time we formed the team TII EuroRacing in that event, so this is how it all started,” Caporale explained.

The AARC hopes to develop autonomous systems that can operate in all environments to solve important human challenges.

A big achievement for TII EuroRacing came in Indianapolis when they achieved speeds of up to 227 kph or 141.1 mph and then achieved the same speed in a head-to-head race in Las Vegas.

“With the work we do here at TII Racing, the interest for us is to push the autonomous technology in an extreme scenario,” Caporale explained.

“The kind of tests that we do here we couldn’t do them on a highway, but doing them here gives us the safety to push the car to the limit and to understand how certain components work, certain sensors, computers, and this technology works, and it also lets us understand how the human drivers would drive the car,” Caporale added.

Unfortunately, the weather for the event was not ideal, with thunderstorms passing through the area that did not clear up until late afternoon. The IAC finally occurred around 3 p.m. after the thunderstorms subsided in Fort Worth.

PoliMove Autonomous Racing from Milan Technical University won the competition, with AI Racing Tech (a collaboration including the University of Hawai’i, UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, and Carnegie Mellon) securing second place and TII EuroRacing getting third. 

TII EuroRacing looks to compete further in Las Vegas in 2023.

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