It’s Oct. 23, 2021, and tensions are high at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Engines are roaring, the crowd is cheering and racecars are lining up without a driver in sight. The green flag waves to start the race that’s taking hands-free to a whole different level.
Autonomous racecars programmed by teams across the world — including the Texas A&M Indy Autonomous Challenge team led by doctoral student Lance Decker — will go head-to-head in the first-ever Indy Autonomous Challenge in pursuit of $1.5 million in rewards.
“The difference is that autonomous cars on the road are going 30 miles per hour with the help of a driver, and we’ll be going 200 miles per hour without human intervention.”
“There are cars that have some autonomy, such as lane-keeping cars that can recognize the left and right side of the lane and steer the wheel,” said Decker. “The difference is that autonomous cars on the road are going 30 miles per hour with the help of a driver, and we’ll be going 200 miles per hour without human intervention.”
The teams were provided with software and tools capable of communicating with a modified Dallara IL-15 racecar. The team is responsible for developing code that propels the racecar around the track while avoiding other cars in the fastest time possible.
“We are writing code that is transportable to the car,” said Decker. “Then we will make adjustments to create connectivity between the virtual world and reality.”
If the team wins, they plan to use the prize money to endow a scholarship at Texas A&M.
“Right now, this is a one-off event,” said Decker. “Our goal is to turn it into something perpetual where other students can come along, take the same car and continue to compete. It would be amazing to help provide this opportunity to others who share this interest.”