Clocking personal best

Students at the University of Waterloo continue to push the limits of autonomous vehicles as members of a multi-school racing team.

Eight engineering, computer science and mathematics students from Waterloo teamed up with peers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Pittsburgh and the Rochester Institute of Technology for a high-profile event earlier this month at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

In its fourth on-track competition since the Indy Autonomous Challenge began in 2019, the joint team finished fourth and set a personal best by clocking over 150 mph with its million-dollar, self-driving Indy car.

Team members made their mark in Las Vegas.

Waterloo made its mark at the Indy Autonomous Challenge in Las Vegas.

“It’s also been an amazing learning experience collaborating with students from other institutions to tackle such a challenging problem together,” said Brian Mao (BASc ’20, mechanical engineering), an applied math master’s student and engineering graduate.

Nine teams representing 17 universities from six countries competed in Las Vegas, with team PoliMOVE from Politecnico di Milano in Italy and the University of Alabama taking top spot with a top speed of 180 mph.

In addition to Mao, Waterloo was represented in Las Vegas by students Connor Kirby, Jatin Mehta, Ryan Larkin, Vivek Bhardwaj, Andre Slavescu, Evelyn Campbell and John Liu.

Held in conjunction with the annual Consumer Electronics Show, the event consisted of an elimination tournament with multiple rounds of head-to-head passing matches featuring programmed Dallara AV-21 cars.

Next up: Monza, Italy

Waterloo has now taken part in four events at famous racetracks, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and is now gearing up for the next competition on road courses, not banked oval tracks, in Monza, Italy in June.

“It’s been an amazing opportunity to advance autonomous vehicle technology in such a unique manner,” said Mao, who hopes to travel to Italy for the event. “My work on the team has already led to an academic publication, and the team is set to have additional publications in the future.”

The challenge was launched with the goal of advancing self-driving technology and speeding up its commercialization. Teams from more than 40 universities were initially involved, with a series of simulated races leading up to the first single-car time trials at Indy.

Waterloo entered a small team called WATORACE before teaming up with the three U.S. schools to pool resources and expertise.

Main Photo: Waterloo teammates (l-r) Connor Kirby, Jatin Mehta, Ryan Larkin, Vivek Bhardwaj, Andre Slavescu, Brian Mao, Evelyn Campbell and John Liu pose with their self-driving race car at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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