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Autonomous vehicle history was made in the first week of January 2022. Two major records were set by Team Polimove while competing for the grand prize at the Autonomous Challenge at @CES.
New high speed record
Team Polimove set a new land speed record for the fastest autonomous racecar with a solo vehicle speed record of 175.96 mph (283.18 kph). The video below summarizes the record setting event in the Nevada desert.
Autonomous Challenge @CES competition thrilled race fans
The Autonomous Challenge @CES took place on the final day of CES 2022. The event was the second in a series of autonomous race car challenges that started with the inaugural Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) on October, 22 2021. At the IAC event, the university teams demonstrated autonomous racecars running on the Indy Motor Speedway at speeds over 130 mph (209 kph).
However, the teams were unable to get their software code to the point of running multiple cars on the track at the same time, due in part to the difficulty of the task and a lack of time for testing. So the event producers decided to come up with another challenge event.
The Autonomous Challenge @CES emerged as the second event in this series, produced by the IAC and Energy Systems Network. Tacking the event onto the end of the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) ensured that the world’s tech media would pay attention. The event was held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a short 15 mile drive from the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The prize money for this challenge was $150K for first place and $50K for second place. In this event, the teams would see who could pass another autonomous racecar on the track in a 1:1 competition.
The qualifying round started with each team given 10 laps to set their fastest autonomous lap time around the 1.5 mile (2.4 km) race track. Polimove demonstrated once again that they could run fastest and ended up seeded first for the passing competition. Euroracing had the second fastest lap time, TUM the third fastest lap time and KAIST the fourth.
High speed passing, for the first time
For the opening round of the passing event, KAIST lined up against Polimove. The teams both successfully executed passes at 80 mph, Polimove successfully executed a pass at the next milestone of 100 mph (161 kph), at which point KAIST forfeited, sending Polimove to the finals.
In the second matchup, TUM went head-to-head against Euroracing. Both teams successfully passed each other in subsequent rounds starting at 80 mph (129 kph), up through 125 mph (201 kph). It was here that the most dramatic crash of the event occurred as Euroracing crashed into the pit entry barrier after verring off the track at 130 mph (209 kph). This eliminated Euroracing and sent TUM through to finals against Polimove.
The final matchup didn’t disappoint the race fans who had assembled to watch history be made. TUM and Polimove were arguably the two top seeded competitors in the competition. Earlier in the week, Polimove set a new autonomous race car land speed record, proving that the vehicle was capable of speeds up to 175 mph (282 kph). TUM was the defending champion from the inaugural IAC event, and it had recently spun out several team members, including team lead Alex Wischnewski to start the new autonomous race software company driveblocks.
Both teams easily demonstrated success at passing at speeds up to 130 mph (209 kph). It was here that things became tense for the competitors, as the teams risked everything to win while running perilously close to the limits of the track grip. As the teams successfully pushed the boundary through 145 mph (233 kph), the next step was 150 mph (241 kph) with Polimove pursuing TUM for the pass. Polimove successfully made the passing attempt at over 167 mph (269 kph), only to see TUM lose grip in the back end of the vehicle in the next corner and spin off the track (without damaging the vehicle). This spinout, however, ended the event with Polimove as the winner.
Here’s a short video of the final pass by Polimove on TUM:
You can (re)watch the full broadcast of the event and see all of the action on the IAC website.
I think this is not the fastest autonomous car