A man works on a computer with two monitors.

UA Team Takes Part in World’s First Self-Driving Race Car Competition

Innovation that was developed at The University of Alabama will be used in a race where computers, not humans, drive the cars at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Oct. 23 for a chance at $1 million and a place in automotive history.


UA is one of 21 universities from nine countries formed into nine teams to compete in the first autonomous race car competition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The UA team, Crimson Autonomous Racing, has already shown success in winning a virtual race earlier in the contest, which began in 2020, and has joined with an Italian university to compete in the Indy Autonomous Challenge.

“This is not something that’s been done before. It’s a new problem — to compete with other cars at high speeds in close proximity to other autonomously driven vehicles using only the sensors themselves for information,” said Dr. Brandon Dixon, associate professor of computer science and team member. “All the driving is based on nothing but the sensors in the vehicle themselves.”

Dixon works with computer science doctoral student Cole Frederick, a native of Montevallo who earned his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from UA, to create computer and software code that makes decisions for the car.

The primary goal of the contest is to advance technology that can speed the commercialization of fully autonomous vehicles and deployments of advanced driver-assistance systems. These enhancements will lead to increased safety and performance in motorsports as well as all modes of commercial transportation.

“Racing has always pushed the limits on vehicle safety, and it has always translated back to passenger vehicles,” said Frederick, who has been in Indianapolis since June as part of the contest. “One of the biggest challenges we will face is the speed the data is coming because the faster we go, the less data we get per the distance we travel. We have to control and judge that a lot faster while predicting handling issues.”

UA’s team is part of the PoliMOVE team, led by Polytechnic University of Milan.

The event will be livestreamed Oct. 23rd at noon on the Indy Autonomous Challenge website.


Adam Jones, UA communications, 205-348-4328, adam.jones@ua.edu