Uncrewed Systems Technology 046

25 C ompetitive motorsport has, for over a century, motivated countless innovations that have filtered through to safer, more comfortable and more efficient automotive solutions. Small wonder then that many of the world’s major vehicle OEMs, transport authorities and industry stakeholders advocate investment and engagement in motorsport as a means of achieving industrial and engineering advances. That knowledge was what motivated the state authorities in Indiana to meet with the heads of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) and the Energy Systems Network (ESN) in 2017. The groups sought to brainstorm how the IMS’ history and recognition, together with the Indianapolis motorsport industry, could be used to foster a new wave of advanced technology development in Indiana. As electric racing was already the province of Formula E, the groups instead felt they ought to focus on autonomy, which they agreed was the next breakthrough in automotive innovation. Investigations into past prize competitions aimed at encouraging autonomous innovations followed, particularly the DARPA Grand Challenges of 2004 and 2005. By 2019, Indiana, the IMS and ESN had begun talking with a range of universities as prospective competitors, and companies who might be sponsors, partners or suppliers. Discussions with universities also established what the general state and focus of driverless autonomy projects were, and therefore how to regulate an autonomous racing contest to ensure a fair and achievable competition. So it was that in May 2019, just days before the Indy 500, a workshop of 30- 40 industry, academic and government organisations gathered to design and format a prize competition that is now known as the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC). As Paul Mitchell, president of the IAC (and president and CEO of the ESN) recounts, “That workshop defined the blueprint for the rule sets we have now. For instance, it was decided early on that we would standardise the race hardware – teams would not build their own racecars. “That was very unlike the DARPA contests. Those events saw experimentations with autonomous Hummers and motorcycles, and Stanford University won in 2005 with a modified Volkswagen Touareg. But you can’t really do that with racecars. One, it’s not easy to fund and build a racecar; and two, it’s not safe to run a bunch of them at the same time on a track when they’re operating on self-driving software stacks. “So we determined that, at least in these early years, the competition should focus on the software elements of autonomy. The teams would be responsible for IAC AV-21 | Dossier The Indy Autonomous Challenge has created a hotbed for advances in uncrewed vehicle technology, as detailed by Rory Jackson Uncrewed Systems Technology | October/November 2022 In January this year, Team PoliMove won the first autonomous head-to-head race event at the Autonomous Challenge at CES... ... and went on to set the world record for autonomous land speed at 192.2 mph with its AV-21 at the Kennedy Space Center in the following April