INDIANAPOLIS—The cars will race at 200 mph, but there won't be any drivers.
More than 30 engineering teams from 11 countries and four states will finish a two-year, five-round competition with the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC), described as "the world's first autonomous high-speed, head-to-head race," according to organizers.
The prize for the winning team is $1 million, but the technological advances are priceless, event organizers said.
The race is scheduled for Oct. 23 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a legendary track known for pushing the limits of racing.
"This place is all about the intersection of speed and innovation," said Mark Miles, president and CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp., which includes the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, IndyCar and IMS Productions.
Miles said as the challenge has developed, watching how artificial intelligence can handle the speed has been impressive.
"What people are going to see here (at the IAC) is way over the edge," he said during a CES 2021 virtual presentation Jan. 13.
Bridgestone Americas Inc., the sole supplier of tires for IndyCar Racing, is a supporter of the event and has been working with the teams throughout the challenge.
The tire maker is working with the IAC and university teams in the competition to advance self-driving car technology with the goal of increasing public awareness of the impact of automotive automation.
"Bridgestone is committed to collaborating with innovative partners to pioneer active, intelligent and digitally integrated technologies that improve the way people move, live, work and play," Bridgestone Americas CEO Paolo Ferrari said.
"The Indy Autonomous Challenge is a groundbreaking event bringing young engineering minds and industry leaders together to deliver the next generation of autonomous technology."
The race is being organized by Energy Systems Network, an Indianapolis non-profit group working to develop energy technology in Indiana and at the speedway.
The competition will feature modified driverless Dallara IL-15 race cars expected to achieve speeds of up to 200 mph.
The IAC has put up a $1 million first-place prize for the team that completes 20 laps of the 2.5-mile Speedway in 25 minutes or less. Second place garners $250,000 and third place $50,000.
Bridgestone, through its Firestone brand, has a history of more than 100 years at the famed racetrack, including 71 Indy 500 victories (one of those being the very first Indy 500).
Bridgestone extended its contract with the open-wheel race series, which includes the Indianapolis 500, through 2025. The company plans to use Bridgestone-branded tires for the IAC competition.
A goal of the competition is to advance commercialization of fully autonomous vehicles and advanced driver-assistance systems.
"The Indy Autonomous Challenge is about innovation to further technical excellence and inspiration to our university competitors," said Paul Mitchell, CEO of Energy Systems Network.