Students continue racing autonomous racecar despite setbacks

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Shang and Mao

Ben Zhang (left) and Brian Mao (right) are in Las Vegas preparing for another race after a crash put their team out in an October 2021 event.

In October, two students linked to the Faculty of Mathematics participated in a unique autonomous racecar event at the famed Indianapolis Speedway, in which their hopes were dashed when their car crashed.

Now, they are back in the driver’s seat, metaphorically speaking, as they work with their team to ready the autonomous car for another race in Las Vegas.

<<<Watch the live stream of the Autonomous Challenge, Friday, Jan. 9th at 3 PM>>>

Brian Mao and Ben Zhang are Waterloo representatives on a four-university team, designing the hardware and software for a racecar that can navigate and reach speeds up to 140 MPH all on its own. Mao is currently a master’s student in applied mathematics, while Zhang is completing an undergraduate degree in computer science.

Mao and Zhang were in the pits in Indianapolis with teammates from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Pittsburgh and the Rochester Institute of Technology – the only student-led team in the final - when their million-dollar car had a GPS malfunction, crashed into an infield wall and failed to finish.

The race in Las Vegas, held as part of the annual Consumer Electronics Show, will be an even tougher test of cutting-edge autonomous hardware and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms.

Nine modified Dallara AV-21 racecars at Indy took the track alone to complete an obstacle avoidance challenge and do two laps as fast as possible. In Las Vegas, the competition will include head-to-head, high-speed passing.

Read more in the feature article in Waterloo News.

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