While the UAE Capital is a motorsport hub hosting the Formula One Grand Prix, Abu Dhabi’s Technology Innovation Institute (TII) has taken a major step in autonomous robotics with its participation at world-class self-driving car competitions.
TII, the applied research pillar of Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC), collaborated with Sweden’s EuroRacing to enhance software and controllers of the autonomous race car, simply put, a F1 car without a driver.
Team TII EuroRacing blazed during the CES 2022 – the world’s first head-to-head high-speed self-driving car competition at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in January.
Also, last October, the Team TII EuroRacing was part of history as nine teams from 21 universities competed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the $1 million Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC).
Dr Najwa Aaraj, Acting Chief Researcher at the TII’s Autonomous Robotics Research Centre (ARRC), underlined the races as an “irresistible opportunity” to showcase its ambitions and belief in the future of autonomous robotics.
“As part of the IAC, university students from around the world were tasked with programming Dallara AV-21 racecars and competing globally in autonomous racing events. The event was a steppingstone for TII and ARRC’s foray into the world of developing autonomous race cars.”
At IAC, Team TII EuroRacing clocked a record 227kmh despite a bug in the system that saw it miss the opportunity to win the inaugural edition.
“A team from ARRC worked alongside EuroRacing over several months to assemble the cutting-edge vehicle fitted out with autonomous software that participated in IAC 2021 – all the while obtaining the relevant knowledge and skills to champion robotics racing.”
Next stop, Team EuroRacing featured at the inaugural high-speed, head-to-head autonomous racecar competition at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on January 7, 2022. Team’s racecar was a specially equipped Dallara AV-21 racecar retrofitted with hardware and controls to enable automation.
“This was the standard vehicle provided to all teams. Team TII-EuroRacing used advanced software that continued to be modified and upgraded through the three days of practice in the run-up to the official race day,” said Dr Aaraj, who is also the Chief Researcher at the Cryptography Research Centre.
At CES 2022, Team TII-EuroRacing upped the ante and battled it out with the world’s best teams – a true duel of different species of artificial intelligence in action – where one team matched human wits and AI skills with another. The TII-EuroRacing team eventually clocked a staggering speed of 272kph.
Dr Aaraj predicts an autonomous F1 car on Yas Marina Circuit by 2025.
“The team is now looking forward to taking part in similar events and boosting awareness for the sport as well as for the safety and sustainability considerations that weigh heavily in its favour when compared to F1. Following such speedy technological advances in autonomous racecar technology, there are predictions that we could well see an autonomous F1 car on track as early as 2025.”
Dr Aaraj stressed that the race events have further strengthened TII’s credibility and projected ARRC as a leader in the development of autonomous racing systems vehicles.
“ARRC will work for the next three years to develop autonomous racing cars, autonomous systems, and drones. We are gaining considerable insights through championing and participating in prestigious autonomous racing events such as the CES and the Indy Autonomous Challenge.
“The fluid, complex environment of the world’s fastest race tracks serves as the most advanced and extreme testbeds for robotics and autonomous vehicles, and they will help accelerate our rate of innovation as we develop and prototype some of the most advanced algorithms and systems for autonomous vehicle software. We are always happy to collaborate with like-minded entities from around the world to advance these technologies.”
Dr Aaraj pointed out that autonomous race cars will become more popular in the future of motorsport as it allows manufacturers and teams to test their cars in various configurations to help identify problems without the need for human drivers.
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“AV tests save costs, time and effort. AV racing focuses more on the ‘brains’ of the vehicle – the software – computational boards and on-boarding sensing technologies. AV racing is also sustainable and environment friendly – according to the US Department of Energy, automated cars could reduce the energy consumption rates by 90 per cent to 200 per cent. Consider the difference this could make to our environment,” Dr Aaraj added.