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IMS Will Continue To Advance Technology through Indy Autonomous Challenge

Since its opening more than a century ago, Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been a proving ground for automotive innovation – from cars to tires to safety features such as energy-absorbing barriers -- and the latest example of exploration will be on display Oct. 23 when the Indy Autonomous Challenge, the world’s first head-to-head, high-speed autonomous race, is held.

The Indy Autonomous Challenge seeks to increase public awareness of the transformational impact automation can have on society. Advancements in vehicle automation have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives each year while also reducing overall vehicular energy consumption.

This competition will pit more than 30 academic institutions from four continents, 11 countries and 14 U.S. states in a racing environment much like the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. The race will span 20 laps, with speeds approaching 200 mph. The winner’s prize is $1 million.

Among the participants are students from the universities of Hawaii, Alabama, Auburn, Embry-Riddle, Florida, North Carolina, IUPUI, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M, Michigan State and Wisconsin.

Mark Miles, president and chief executive officer of Penske Entertainment, which owns IMS, said the 2.5-mile oval is the natural venue to showcase the ingenuity of the students.

“This place is about the intersection of speed and technology, and it’s been that way since its earliest days,” Miles said during a virtual presentation to the Consumer Electronics Show annually held in Las Vegas. “We’d like to think this is an extension of that.”

The teams of students will manage the software necessary to pilot the driverless Dallara IL-15 cars in the race expected to take 25 minutes.

“In terms of development, it’s a huge challenge,” Miles said. “When I think about what the schools have taken on, God bless them. To make this kind of race that it has the potential to be, it’s an incredible challenge.”

The event has the support of Firestone, which will supply the tires, and NTT, a global technology company which sponsors the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. A test at IMS is expected to be held in June.

“We’re excited to have the opportunity to marry the INDYCAR SERIES, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500 into this Indy Autonomous Challenge and to bring along partners like Firestone and NTT as part of it,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “We really can’t wait to watch.”

Cara Adams, director, Race Tire Engineering and Manufacturing and chief engineer, Motorsports at Bridgestone Americas, expects many of the participants will be future contributors to the success of the sport.

“There are going to be so many great young minds that are going to be working on this,” Adams said. “We’ve been having calls with (participants) almost every Friday, bringing them up to speed, explaining that the right-side (race) tire is different than the left-side tire – and we’re learning from them, too. There’s going to be some great recruiting opportunities that come out of this.”

Bennett Indart, vice president, NTT Smart World Solutions, said the technology his company has brought to IMS will be similar to the benefits that likely will come from this endeavor.

“Having a team of folks who work on (technology) every day, I can tell you it’s constantly changing,” he said. “The world of technology is fascinating to follow when you’re out on the edge and connecting devices that produce streams of information to help improve how that works with other devices in connection with how it works in a system and how those systems work together, and a car is no different.

“It’s tremendously valuable these types of engagements and challenges, quite frankly, to help advance technology.”

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