Indianapolis Motor Speedway will host a two-year, $1 million competition culminating in a race on October 23, 2021, that will be contested by autonomous vehicles driving around the legendary 2.5-mile oval that hosts the Indiananpolis 500.

The Indy Autonomous Challenge builds on the track’s interest in autonomous driving and will be a competition among universities to create software that enables self-driving Indy Lights cars to compete in a head-to-head race. One key will be the development of software that can speed the commercialization of full autonomous vehicles and enhance existing advanced driver-assistance systems, helping drivers remain in control and avoiding accidents.

“What we’re asking universities to do is hard,” said Matt Peak, director of mobility at Energy Systems Network. “Our hope is that by bringing together and offering up to participating teams the world’s premier automotive proving ground, performance chassis manufacturer, engineering research center and simulation platform, as well as nearly $1.5 million in total cash awards, universities will see the Challenge as not just throwing down the gauntlet but also extending the helping hand to accelerate innovation and the arrival of new technologies.”

The Challenge will have five rounds over the next two years. Teams submit a white paper during the first round and in the second round, teams must demonstrate vehicular automation by sharing video of an existing vehicle or by participating in Purdue University’s self-driving go-kart competition at IMS. In the third round, Challenge simulation sponsor ANSYS and the Energy Systems Network will award $150,000 in prizes to top finishers of a simulated race. The fourth round enables teams to test their vehicles at IMS in advance of the head-to-head race around the oval, which will award $1 million, $250,000, and $50,000 to the first-, second- and third-place finishers, respectively.

Five universities registered for the competition upon its opening: Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the University of Florida, the University of Illinois and the University of Virginia.

Joining Indianapolis Motor Speedway and ESN for the event’s announcement were race car manufacturer Dallara and the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research. Through Clemson’s Deep Orange vehicle prototype program, Clemson graduate automotive engineering students will collaborate with ESN and Dallara to engineer an autonomous-capable version of Dallara’s 210 mph IL-15 Indy Lights chassis that can accommodate the competing university teams’ driverless algorithms.