TUM Is Vice-World Champion in Autonomous Racing

The TUM Autonomous Motorsport Team is Vice-World Champion in Autonomous Racing.

The TUM Autonomous Motorsport Team is Vice-World Champion in Autonomous Racing. Image: Jacob Kepler

The team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) entered the Autonomous Challenge @CES in Las Vegas as defending champions, seeking to test their limits once again. The team took second place in the race on Friday, employing spectacular overtaking maneuvers in a head-to-head duel with the PoliMOVE team. In the race, TUM’s artificial intelligence controlled racing car reached top speeds of up to 270 km/h. The team received a prize of 50.000 US-Dollars for their excellent performance.

"We’re all extremely pleased with the result," says Prof. Lienkamp, head of the Chair of Automotive Technology. "In this race, we were able to show what our autonomous vehicle can do, competing with other vehicles at such extreme speeds. We’ve never gone as fast as we did today. I’m very proud of how well we did in the race. But what really counts is the progress we’ve been able to make. This is a victory for autonomous racing as a whole."

Five university teams entered the Autonomous Challenge @ CES on Friday at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Participants had to face the following challenge: two autonomous racing cars were pitted against each other in head-to-head races over the course of several knockout rounds. As you would expect, viewers got to witness numerous overtaking maneuvers and some potentially risky interactions among the racing cars.

The "TUM Autonomous Motorsports" team mastered its first few racing duels without any problems. It was only in the final round against the PoliMOVE team from Milan that the TUM vehicle reached its limits.

"At first, we got close to the opposing vehicle and made some well-controlled overtaking maneuvers. Then we increased the speed bit by bit. However, the interplay of perception, motion planning and control then produced some minor problems, which in total led to the limit being exceeded and ultimately caused the vehicle to spin out," says team leader Philipp Karle. "But I have to say that this was the first time we raced against another racing vehicle at such high speeds. We wanted to test our limits." Exactly how and when the vehicle finally reached its limit still needs to be analyzed, Karle says. "In the end, our attention to detail, the team spirit of our crew and first-class Bavarian engineering made us succeed."

For being this year’s runners-up, the team received a prize of 50.000 Dollars. But money has never been the key motivator for the scientists. "Now, we want to bring the technology to the streets," says Lienkamp.
"To do this, we are making our research open source. Additionally, we have founded the software company "driveblocks" with some former doctoral students led by Alexander Wischnewski. Driveblocks will be in charge of batch production."

TUM President Thomas F. Hofmann congratulated the team: "What a great success! Curiosity and team spirit; consciously dissolving the boundaries between theory and practice; and connecting disciplines and nations - that’s what our young talent initiatives in global technology competitions stand for. I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to our team of students, PhD students and postdocs under the leadership of Prof. Markus Lienkamp."

The TUM team entered the race in Las Vegas as defending champions. All the competing teams had already met in Indianapolis in October at the Indy Autonomous Challenge. In that challenge, however, the only thing that counted was the highest driving speed. At that time, "TUM Autonomous Motorsports" was able to win with an average speed of 218 km/h and thus won one million dollars in prize money.

The Autonomous Challenge @ CES was organized by non-profit organization Energy Systems Network, which had also initiated the Indy Autonomous Challenge. The race was a major highlight of the technology trade fair CES, which took place from 5 to 7 January in Las Vegas.


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