The University of Hawaiʻi is continuing to make history in the field of driverless vehicles as it competes in the Autonomous Challenge @ CES (Consumer Electronics Show) for the second consecutive year. The UH team called UH AI Racing Tech, building off a recent strong performance, is one of nine teams from six countries representing 18 universities that will compete in the single elimination event on January 7, at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The event will begin with time trials and elimination rounds at 8 a.m. (Hawaiʻi Standard Time). Then the semifinal and final rounds will be broadcast live from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Hawaiʻi Standard Time) on the Indy Autonomous Challenge website.
After the time trials, the remaining teams will race head-to-head, reaching speeds of more than 190 mph. AV-21 race cars are programmed to alternate between playing the role of leader (defender) and passer/follower (attacker). Passes will be attempted at increasing speeds until one or both cars are unable to successfully complete a pass.
Related: UH AI Racing Tech places third in ‘rollercoaster’ autonomous car challenge, January 7, 2023
UH AI Racing Tech enters the event as the top ranked United States team fresh off of its second place finish at the Indy Autonomous Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway on November 11, 2022. Among six teams in the competition, UH AI Racing Tech lost to PoliMOVE out of Italy, which also won last year’s Autonomous Challenge @ CES. Teams competed at speeds topping 140 mph despite unseasonably cold and wet weather conditions with track temperatures dropping to near freezing. UH AI Racing Tech Team Principal Gary Passon is looking forward to better conditions in Las Vegas and an opportunity to improve.
“The team has established itself as a serious competitor in this competition,” Passon said. “We had a few things break our way in the last race. But, races are races and so if you’re not in it, you can’t win it. That gave us a lot of confidence coming into the Las Vegas event. We’re looking forward to remaining a contender in this event and we made some great progress between the two competitions.”
Racing team originated from UH Maui College
UH AI Racing Tech was launched out of a spring 2020 UH Maui College autonomous vehicle technology class. It started small from scaled vehicles, to go-kart-sized and now to full-sized racing cars. Since its inception, UH AI Racing Tech has added students and faculty from UH Mānoa’s College of Engineering, UC San Diego, Carnegie Mellon University and UC Berkeley. The collaboration is working to enrich the skills and resources of the schools, as well as to demonstrate the good will the various campuses have for each other.
“This has been one of the most informative projects of my grad school career,” said C.K. Wolfe, a UC Berkeley graduate student. “The opportunity to be on the cutting edge of technology and get a chance to work hands-on with these systems that many people never see in their entire professional lives.”
Tech leader in driverless vehicles
Safety is paramount for autonomous car racing and according to Passon, if they can make fast, intelligent and capable decisions, and be able to do that at 200 mph, that will put their work at the forefront of the type of research that is going to fuel the cars of tomorrow.
“We’re proud of what we’ve been able to do and the people we’ve been able to work with,” Passon said. “Hopefully our work and contributions will be an important part of building safer vehicles for everyone.”
UH AI Racing Tech is supported by a number of industry corporations and local community groups, including New Eagle LLC, ADLINK, Luxonis, PointOneNav, Emlid, Pratt Miller Motorsports, RockWestComposites, Maui Robotic Vehicle Association, VectorAero LLC and many others.
—By Marc Arakaki