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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is partnering with Energy Systems Network in Indy to put on a race between self-driving cars.

The Indy Autonomous Challenge is expected to take place in October of 2021. It will feature colleges and universities from around the world whose students will create autonomous driving software, retrofit it to an Indy Lights car, and then race with it at IMS.

ESN CEO Paul Mitchell tells Inside Indiana Business the competition will help push innovation of autonomous technology.

“By combining a prize competition with a motorsports race, we think students from the top research universities across the country are going to want to be involved in this,” Mitchell said. “They’re going to want to develop the most state-of-the-art artificial intelligence software technology and apply it to what is really a huge challenge of automating vehicles.” 

Schools wanting to have students participate will have to apply at Once their application is accepted, Mitchell said students will go through a five-round process before they can turn their car loose on the oval at IMS. 

The first round is a simple essay followed by a short video that demonstrates the school’s proposed vehicular automation of an existing vehicle. The second round can also be fulfilled by taking part in Purdue University’s self-driving go-kart competition at IMS.

The third round will involve using a simulator to compete in a simulated race, which will award $150,000 in prize money. The fourth and fifth-round include testing the retrofitted Dallara’s IL-15 Indy Lights cars on the oval before finally competing in a head-to-head race. 

Up for grabs in the race will be millions of dollars in prize money. 

“There’s a fundamental connection between innovations on the racetrack and real-world improvements on the highway,” IMS President Doug Boles said in a news release. “With the launch of the Indy Autonomous Challenge, IMS continues to embrace its historic role as a catalyst for the next generation of vehicle technologies in motorsports competition and wider consumer platforms.”

You will also be able to go out to IMS and watch the race. Ticket information will be provided at a later date.

(PHOTO: Courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway)