The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been the home of innovation, testing and speed since 1909. The latest innovation is something very different – racing without the driver. 

Indy Autonomous Challenge was devised as a way to use competition to fast track advancements in high speed autonomous driving control. 

Anyone with even just a passing interest in autonomous driving and autonomous vehicles knows that there is a huge gap between professional drivers and the current abilities of autonomous vehicles. This is especially true as speeds increase. 

Indianapolis Motor Speedway has teamed up with Energy Systems Network to organise not only the challenge but also the million dollar prize cheque. Energy Systems Network (“ESN”) is a “non-profit industry consortium of companies and institutions focused on the development of the advanced energy technology sector”. You might not have ever heard of ESN but you sure have heard of some of the brands behind the group – try Cummins, Duke Energy, Delphi, Toyota, Bolloré, ITOCHU, Toshiba, Vectren, MISO, Purdue, Ivy Tech and Notre Dame. 

The challenge will see thirty university teams work around the clock to transform basic autonomous driving systems into something that can get an Indy car around the brickyard flatout without crashing into the barriers or other competitors. 

Speaking of competitors, they’re not mucking about. A major sponsor of the challenge is race car chassis maker Dallara. Dallara is another name that you may not have heard of but it’s CEO, Giampaolo Dallara, knows his stuff. Taken under the wing of one Enzo Anselmo Giuseppe Maria Ferrari in 1959, he then went on to work at Maserati and collaborate with Bruce McLaren, Roger Penske and Frank Williams. Through the 1990s Dallara made cars were the winning most at Indy and since 2012 every open wheeler at Indy is made by Dallara. Like I said, they know their stuff. 

I love the idea of continuing the tradition of motorsport being a means to testing and progressing road cars and pushing this baptism of fire into the area of autonomous vehicles. I look forward to watching the race in October and seeing the Dallara chassis’ racing around the brickyard, although I’ll miss seeing Will Power punching out those left turns.

EFTM’s coverage of CES 2021 is supported by Hisense, Samsung and Powered by Telstra’s 5G.