Autonomous auto racing boosts AI for safer driverless cars

The excitement of auto racing comes from split-second decisions and daring passes by fearless drivers. Imagine that scene, but without the driver – the car alone, guided by the invisible hand of artificial intelligence. Can the rush of racing unfold without a driver steering the course? It turns out that it can. Enter autonomous racing, a field that’s not just about high-speed competition but also pushing the boundaries of what autonomous vehicles can achieve and improving their safety. Over a century ago, at the dawn of automobiles, as society shifted from horse-drawn to motor-powered vehicles, there was public doubt about the safety and reliability of the new technology. Motorsport racing was organized to showcase the technological performance and safety of these horseless carriages. Similarly, autonomous racing is the modern arena to prove the reliability of autonomous vehicle technology as driverless cars begin to hit the streets. Autonomous racing’s high-speed trials mirror the real-world challenges that autonomous vehicles face on streets: adjusting to unexpected changes and reacting in fractions of a second. Mastering these challenges on the track, where speeds are higher and reaction times shorter, leads to safer autonomous vehicles on the road. Autonomous race cars pass, or ‘overtake,’ others on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway track. I am a computer science professor who studies artificial intelligence, robotics and autonomous vehicles, and I lead the Cavalier Autonomous Racing team at the University of Virginia. The team competes in the Indy Autonomous Challenge, a global contest where universities pit fully autonomous Indy race cars against each other. Since its…Autonomous auto racing boosts AI for safer driverless cars

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