No Drivers Necessary: Autonomous Race Cars and Freight Routes

No Drivers Necessary: Autonomous Race Cars and Freight Routes

Two interesting new autonomous vehicle projects are underway in Indiana currently. One involves advanced programming for autonomous vehicles that will be racing at hundreds of miles an hour. The other is establishing a new autonomous freight shipping route. In both cases, our state was chosen as the best place to launch these incredible new collaborations – each of which will one day be remembered as part of the turning point in transportation history.


World’s First Autonomous Vehicle Race

Indianapolis has always been a town well-known for racing. But now, it’s going to take that acclaim up a notch by becoming the first city in the world to host a high-speed, full-size autonomous vehicle race.

37 universities from all over the world, each with specialties in AI software and autonomous vehicle engineering, have joined forces with the Indianapolis-based Energy Systems Network (ESN) and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) to bring the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) to life. 31 teams have been formed to enter this first-of-its-kind challenge.

The IAC is a $1.5 million prize competition among universities to program autonomous-modified Dallara IL-15 racecars. The teams will compete in the world’s first head-to-head race at speeds of up to 200 mph around the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The event is scheduled for October 23, 2021.

The primary goal of the challenge is to advance technology that can speed the commercialization of fully autonomous vehicles and deployments of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). These enhancements will lead to increased safety and performance in all modes of racing and commercial transportation.

“This is an extraordinary challenge, calling on the best and brightest of our university students and faculty worldwide to engineer software that will have a significant impact on the future of all classes of transportation,” said Paul Mitchell, president and CEO, ESN. “The diversity of the teams, representing 10 countries on four continents, shows the brilliance and ambition of our young people around the world.”


I-70 Truck Automation Corridor Project Gets Rolling

The neighboring states of Indiana and Ohio are about to take on a high-tech highway project together that recently received a big funding boost. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has awarded a team led by DriveOhio, an initiative of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), $4.4 million for the I-70 Truck Automation Corridor project.

The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) and the Ohio-based Transportation Research Center Inc. (TRC) are partnering with ODOT to deploy smart logistics solutions along a stretch of I-70 between Columbus, OH and Indianapolis, IN.

Additional participating entities include technology providers, truck manufacturers, regional logistics councils, and private freight companies. With partners contributing $4.5 million in matching funds, the total investment in Ohio for this project will be $8.9 million.

“Connected and autonomous driving technology is revolutionizing how we move people and products across our country,” INDOT Commissioner Joe McGuinness said. “Indiana and Ohio are proud to partner with USDOT to lead in the deployment of technology in a multistate highway corridor that will guide the future of automated driving and freight movement.”

According to DriveOhio, the project will provide freight companies and truck automation vendors an opportunity to deploy partially automated driving technology in daily “revenue service” operations on I-70 between Columbus and Indianapolis.

To ensure the safe deployment of these technologies on public roads, the TRC will be an integral part of this project. Offering professional driver training for host fleets and performing an automation audit of I-70, the data the TRC collects will provide DOT partners the insights they need to ensure their roadways are ready for partially automated vehicles. During public road testing, a professional driver will be at the wheel always should human intervention be needed. The project data gathered will be shared with USDOT to inform the development of policies and procedures to scale across the United States.

Federal Highway Administrator Nicole R. Nason said, “[The] I-70 Truck Automation Corridor project represents a model for other states in promoting technologies that will make freight transport and America’s economy more efficient.”

Ohio and Indiana have millions of transportation industry-related jobs and have experienced substantial freight growth within and through the states. The data gained from this four-year project will support technological innovation in this important sector of the economy.


The Transportation of Tomorrow

One day, we might look back at both of these projects as being part of the beginning of a totally new chapter in transportation history. This proves, once again, that Indiana is a world leader when it comes to things like transportation, logistics, and emerging vehicle technology. The future is now, and we’re watching it all unfold right here in our own state.



Universities Registered to Compete in the IAC

International Universities (15)

  • Austria: Graz Univ. of Technology
  • Canada: Univ. of Waterloo
  • Germany (2): Karlsruhe Institute of Technology; Technical Univ. of Munich
  • India (2): Indian Institute of Technology Madras; Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham
  • Israel: Ariel Univ.
  • Italy (3): Univ. of Pisa; Univ. of Modena; Politecnico di Milano
  • Poland (2): Polish Academy of Sciences; Warsaw Univ. of Technology
  • South Korea (2): Kookmin Univ.; Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology
  • Switzerland: Eth Zurich

U.S. Universities (22)

  • Alabama (2): Auburn Univ.; Univ. of Alabama
  • California (2): UC Berkeley; California Polytechnic State Univ. (Cal Poly)
  • Colorado: Colorado State Univ.
  • Florida (2): Embry Riddle Aeronautical Univ.; Univ. of Florida
  • Georgia: Kennesaw State Univ.
  • Hawaii: Univ. of Hawaii
  • Indiana (2): Indiana Univ.-Purdue Univ. (IUPUI).; Purdue Univ.
  • Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • Michigan (3) Michigan State Univ.; Western Michigan Univ.; Univ. of Michigan-Dearborn
  • New York (2): Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT); U.S. Military Academy (West Point)
  • North Carolina: Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Pennsylvania: Univ. of Pittsburgh
  • Texas: Texas A&M Univ.
  • Virginia: Univ. of Virginia
  • Wisconsin: Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison

Source: ESN, IMS, IAC

Category Features, Logistics