Indy Autonomous Challenge: Polimove misses gold by a whisker

Third place for the Politecnico team, struck by an engine failure 2 laps from the finish line, while it was establishing the speed record

The first edition of the ' Indy Autonomous Challenge Powered by Cisco (IAC) , the first unmanned car speed championship at the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway .

The intense competition, which lasted over 6 months between tests and qualifications races, saw the best universities in the world programming Dallara IL-15 racing cars, modified for autonomous driving.

On the Indianapolis track competed 28 teams of over 500 university students from 39 universities in 11 countries. Representing Italy the PoliMOVE team, led by prof. Sergio Savaresi: one of the leading international research groups in the field of automotive control, intelligent vehicles and smart mobility.

Indy Autonomous Challenge


The final competition on October 23rd ended on a bittersweet note for our team, leaving Indianapolis too early: after having dominated the last months of the qualifiers the car crashed into the guard rail .

“The connection between two very important control units disconnected”, said Professor Savaresi, “the engine control unit and the one that controlled the steering and brakes. We couldn't do anything”.

The group, made up of undergraduates and PhD students from Politecnico, played all their cards during the final, exploring the limits of the machine and risking more speed than all the other teams.
A strategy that betrayed them one step away from the finish line, but not without glory: the breakdown occurred right at the moment when PoliMOVE set the speed record of the championship.

Indy Autonomous Challenge

“252 km/h , with the engine going at 6000 rpm: we broke the record and crashed 10 seconds later. But… racing is racing ”, continues Savaresi,“ and these cars are still very unreliable prototypes. We have always been among the fastest, in the race we pushed to the limit, being the first to explore the strength limits of the car ”.

We have tested that these cars are not yet robust enough. The TUM Autonomous Motorsport of the Technische Universität of Munich took first place. In the winning team, however, there was a piece of Politecnico: the competing car, the same for all the teams (except in the autonomous driving software), is a Dallara EXP, designed by the Dallara Group and its founder, Alumnus Giampaolo Dallara.

Indy Autonomous Challenge


The event met with great media and public success: thousands of attendees and over 20,000 viewers on the live stream, as well as 350 high school STEM students representing over 50 urban, rural and suburban school districts across Indiana.

"For our students however, it was an intense, beautiful and very formative experience", continues Savaresi. "They faced for months, on the field, a racing approach , extremely focused on the goal. It is a context in which the times are very rigidly marked. During the tests you have to be ready at the right time and everything has to work. The group has become very close-knit, has developed a concrete working method and great discipline in managing pressure”.

Indy Autonomous Challenge
Credits: Polimove

And now? The experience has finished?

“No, we will continue to work on the software and on the machine”, answers Savaresi, who concludes: “it is not yet official, but we will almost certainly try to make up for it in a overtaking race in Las Vegas, on January 7, during CES 2022 . Furthermore, we are one step away from the world record for speed in autonomous driving, which today is 282 km/h, held since 2019 by a Roborace machine . We are looking for a track to break this record . And the success of the first edition of the IAC suggests that there could be a second in 2022".

If the chance is presented, we will all be rooting for Politecnico!

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