Musing on Autonomous Vehicles and Racing


The importance of racing

Racing combines various engineering fields and human athletic ability to produce machinery at the bleeding edge of technology. Throughout a typical season, teams will continuously develop the car, creating necessary component upgrades to allow for top performance. These components are sometimes useful enough to make the transition to commercial vehicles. Things like active suspension, traction control, and anti-lock brake systems are all technologies that originated from racing development. The Williams FW14B car (from 1991, no less) was a particularly forward-thinking vehicle.

The pressure cooker of racing facilitates fast development and rapid technological advancement. Autonomous vehicles are the future of transportation but there’s still a long way to go before we reach level 6.

Editorial

There are a few organized competitions based around autonomous vehicles, with a recent race happening in January 2022. There’s also the slightly more professional roborace featuring DevBot 2.0. In my opinion, having a high-profile, dedicated racing series with autonomous vehicles would be an incredible opportunity for learning. The technology is fairly advanced so support from major auto manufacturers would be necessary (in addition to other major sponsors). The cars wouldn’t have to be super cars, however, and the required chassis could start with something like a mazda miata (a popular club-level racing choice).

The more I learn about autonomous vehicles the more excited I get. My group project is focused on creating a basic autonomous vehicle simulation using Unity. It will be very interesting to gain useful insight into this topic. Will post more!

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