Graduate Students test their million dollar racecar at Indy Autonomous Challenge

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

 Ben Zhang (left) and Brian Mao have been working in Las Vegas for six weeks to get their autonomous car ready for Friday's race against teams from around the world.

Brian Mao and Ben Zhang, two graduate students from the University of Waterloo and members of a multi-university team compete at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Indy Autonomous Challenge. At the event, teams from across the world compete with self-driving race cars for a prize of $1 million USD.

Mao earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering at Waterloo and is now pursuing a master’s degree in Applied Mathematics. Zhang has a degree in Computer Science and is studying for his master’s in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The autonomous racing challenge was launched in 2019 to advance self-driving technology and speed up its commercialization. It began with teams from more than 40 universities and included a series of simulated races leading up to the Indy competition. 

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 race cars at Indy took the track alone to complete an obstacle avoidance challenge and do two laps as fast as possible.

"It's been an amazing opportunity to advance autonomous vehicle technology once again,” said Mao, who has been in Las Vegas with Zhang for six weeks to prepare for the race.

Mao and Zhang are the team leads for controls and vehicle modelling. They have been focusing on software integration, which includes accounting for noisy sensors and vehicle dynamics. Their car has reached speeds in testing of over 140 mph and they look forward to demonstrating its improved capabilities, including passing maneuvers. Waterloo initially had a small team of its own called WATORACE before teaming up with three U.S. schools to pool resources and expertise. 

Read the full article on Waterloo News                                                                          Watch video on YouTube

 

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