These Self-Driving Racing Cars Go 180 Miles per Hour

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On the outside, it may look like a traditional Indy race car. But a closer look reveals there is no cockpit for a driver. The sensor-loaded vehicles are more like robots than cars. Yet, these high-speed autonomous wonders are creating a buzz both in the racing world and with those who just love automotive innovation.
The forward-thinking, young minds responsible have organized a self-driving car race scheduled for Oct. 23, according to Mashable.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway competition, known as the Indy Autonomous Challenge, is sure to rev up interest. It is a head-to-head demonstration of university-driven, high-tech inspiration that may offer a glimpse of the future.
closeup of a Indy Autonomous Challenge self-driving racing car on a track
The Indy Autonomous Challenge on Oct. 23 will feature self-driving racing cars.

How do the self-driving race cars work?

The spectacle of watching race cars speeding around a track has always captured the minds of Americans. Even without a human driver, the IAC is expected to deliver quite a show. The cars are fitted with state-of-the-art cameras, radar and a series of infrared sensors including three long-distance LiDARs.
The race car looks like a typical Indy Lights vehicle on the outside. Closer inspection reveals a cockpit crammed with processors, wires, and a motherboard much like a supercomputer. As the car picks up speed, the system and sensors can anticipate conditions or obstacles in its way.
The Clemson University automotive engineering students designed the race car with an extreme racing environment in mind. They preserved the integrity and aerodynamic efficiency of the car to handle high speeds of up to 180 mph, according to Clemson University.
That the complex automation system was placed in the space where the driver would be is a feat in itself.

What is the Indy Autonomous Challenge all about?

The Indy Autonomous Challenge takes its cue from the 2004 DARPA Grand Challenge organized by the U.S. Department of Defense. Its goal was to study and accelerate the advancement of autonomous vehicles for military purposes.
This time, the challenge is university-led with participation from over 40 schools from across the globe. It is a next-generation effort with 10 teams and over 200 students ready to take automotive technology to a whole new level.
The October competition is certain to bring focus to the capabilities of autonomous cars with lightning speed. It is the world’s first head-to-head autonomous race to take place at the renowned Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The competition offers first, second, and third cash prizes to winning teams.

Will the LiDAR sensors stand up to the challenge?

One of the main goals of the challenge is to see how well the sensors react at high speeds. The information will provide insight into the application and effectiveness of LiDAR sensors in the autonomous vehicle industry.
LiDAR are light-detecting sensors made by Florida’s Luminar company. LiDAR functions as the car’s eyes by emitting light and detecting objects around it.
The Indy Autonomous Challenge is destined to be adrenaline-filled entertainment. But for companies like Volvo who plan to use the sensors in future SUVs, it is a priceless learning experience. Automakers are paying attention as they race to the autonomous vehicle finish line.

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