On October 23, 2021, the final race of the Indy Autonomous Challenge will take place at the Motor Speedway: it will be the first self-driving car race. Among the competing teams is the PoliMove Racing Team, led by Sergio Savaresi, Professor of Vehicle Control at the Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering of Politecnico di Milano and Alumnus in Electronic Engineering.
For months, the team of undergraduates and doctoral students has been working on the control software and the algorithm that will be used to drive a car at 300 km per hour. Last June 30, the first decisive victory has brought the Politecnico closer to the final goal in October and that for the moment has yielded the first prize of 100,000 dollars ( at this link the video that tells the qualifications ).
“The qualifying race took place in a simulation environment, on which we had the opportunity to do several tests in recent months”, comments Savaresi. “From the point of view of the car race, we weren't particularly fun: in qualifying we set the best time ever and we started first, in pole position. We were first throughout the race and we finished first. No one has ever overtaken us despite numerous attempts to overtake by other cars that our “AI driver” has always managed to counter. We won! ”.
During this simulation race, 16 teams from the most prestigious universities in the world participated, but, among cars that went off the track, collisions between contenders and collisions with structures, only 4 crossed the finish line : Polytechnic University of Munich and University of Texas at the top, in second and third place, in fourth place MIT.
Our team gave the organizers the virtual driver one month before the race. “It is a real replacement for the human pilot, an artificial intelligence software. We developed it with different layers of tactical and strategic intelligence: during the race he was ready to evaluate if things were going badly, change tactics and choose to take a few more risks. Then, luckily, it didn't help ", continues Savaresi, who explained in detail the nature of this virtual pilot in the issue 9 of MAP (from page 28).
The race on 23 October will see a total of 10 university teams on the track. The first prize will be $ 1 million. This time the virtual drivers will race on the track, aboard a real car, the same model for everyone: a Dallara IL-15 (renamed AV-21) modified with sensors suitable for autonomous driving.
"There is a bit of tension. A lot of crashes can occur in simulation, but nobody gets hurt and you don't risk wasting nearly half a million dollars due to a mistake ”. The car, in fact, costs about 300 thousand euros, in addition to the travel and research expenses necessary to complete the tender ( find out here how to financially support the PoliMove Racing Team with a donation ).
Right now the first team members are leaving for Indianapolis and the others will join them in September. Ready for the final, Savaresi concludes: "As a working group of the Politecnico, we have been working in this area for twenty years now, so we have a lot of know-how behind us and we are certainly among the teams that are potentially a little ahead of the time. to the others. From the point of view of skills we are very strong. But yesterday, during the simulation race, we were very anxious: as in every single race, the unexpected is just around the corner, you touch someone inside, there is a mechanical malfunction, and you lose. We are certainly among the top teams and we hope to have a bit of luck also in October ”.
Credits photo: www.indyautonomouschallenge.com