Over the past few years, CES has slowly become more and more of a car show, but here in 2022, things are kicking up a notch. In addition to the usual slate of automotive tech exhibitors, this year’s CES is set to feature a fully autonomous car race.
The Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC), as it’s called, is scheduled for January 7 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and will feature competing university teams from all around the world. Much like Formula E was meant to boost the development of electric car technologies, the IAC is designed to advance autonomous vehicle tech and usher in a world where autonomous vehicles are both ubiquitous and safe.
“The IAC taps into prize competitions’ which have a long track record of focusing minds and leveraging competing teams and other third-party contributions to overcome complex challenges,” the organizers explain. “In particular, the IAC is inspired and advised by innovators who competed in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Grand Challenge, which put forth a $1 million award in 2004 that created the modern automated vehicle industry. Moreover, given its heavy presence of university-affiliated teams, the DARPA Grand Challenge inspired an entire generation of students to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).”
Interestingly, the teams competing in the IAC don’t actually design their own cars. Instead, they merely design the algorithms that control them. The official racecar of the IAC is the Dallara AV-21, which is a classic indy racing car, but in this case, it has been retrofitted to make it capable of autonomous driving. The teams must create algorithms that will allow the car to drive around the track, pass competitors, and hopefully not crash into anything — which is a tall order when the cars are traveling at 180 miles per hour.
To make things even more exciting, this race in Vegas isn’t the first round of competition, either. The inaugural IAC ever happened back in October at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the German team took home a $1 million prize. And now that the teams have had an opportunity to test their software and dial everything in, the race in Vegas is set to be even more competitive.
Fingers crossed there won’t be any crashes. We really hope everything goes according to plan…
Ok, fine, who are we kidding!? Since there’s nobody in the cars, a crash would be both harmless and extremely entertaining, right? We can’t wait to see what happens!