Indy Autonomous Challenge
Indy Autonomous Challenge 60eef6b55988f

Indy racing and autonomy

July 14, 2021
NACFE will be holding a workshop in conjunction with the Indy Autonomous Challenge, the first head-to-head autonomous racing competition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with $1.5M university prize at the finish line.

I know I’ve been spending a lot of time talking about all the cool stuff that is going on with electric trucks. It’s kind of hard not to as we get closer to the start of Run on Less—Electric. However, there is also a lot going on in autonomous trucking. Side note, if you have not checked out NACFE’s Perspective on Autonomous Trucking web pages, I suggest you do. We are continually adding content to this section of our website to help bring clarity to this rapidly evolving topic.

But I do not want to make this blog a commercial for NACFE, rather I want to use this space to say that autonomy is happening. We are seeing it in automobiles, trucks, and even race cars.

We are excited to be holding a workshop in conjunction with the Indy Autonomous Challenge, a $1.5 million university prize competition. It is being billed as the world’s first head-to-head, high-speed autonomous race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, site of the iconic Indianapolis 500. Those of you who know me, know that I am a huge fan of Indy racing, so I find this challenge especially cool.

The Indy Autonomous Challenge is a competition among accredited, tax-exempt colleges and universities (including qualified and accredited foreign institutions of higher education). The teams are being asked to program a Dallara AV-21 racecar to be the first to cross the finish line.

On a side note, NACFE is excited to see young people interested in anything vehicle-related. We were thrilled to be part of the MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge in 2020, in which teams of high school students were tasked with using mathematical modeling to predict the percentage of electric trucks that would be on the road in the next few year and to determine the number and location of charging stations.

But back to the race according to the race’s website, “The Indy Autonomous Challenge seeks to increase public awareness of the transformational impact that automation can have on society.”

The challenge is seeking information to help overcome three major barriers to autonomous vehicle acceptance:

  • Solving “edge case” scenarios,
  • Catalyzing new autonomous vehicle technologies and innovators, and
  • Engaging the public to help ensure acceptance and use of autonomous vehicle technologies.

I am hoping that the lessons learned from this race can be applied to autonomous truck development. Maybe this quote from J. Douglas Boles, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, sums things up best. “There’s a fundamental connection between innovations on the racetrack and real-world improvements on the highway. With the launch of the Indy Autonomous Challenge, IMS continues to embrace its historic role as a catalyst for the next generation of vehicle technologies in motorsports competition and wider consumer platforms. And while drivers will always be at the heart of racing at IMS, we’re excited to be part of this groundbreaking and exciting initiative.”

I hope you are as excited about this as I am. I can't wait to see how the great minds in trucking leverage the information learned in the Indy Autonomous Challenge to speed up the development of autonomous trucking.

About the Author

Michael Roeth | Executive Director

Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.

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