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AI Takes the Wheel at the Indy Autonomous Challenge

CNET got a behind-the-scenes look at the Indy Autonomous Challenge, where teams from around the world put their AI drivers to the test.

Jesse Orrall Senior Video Producer
Jesse Orrall (he/him/his) is a Senior Video Producer for CNET. He covers future tech, sustainability and the social impact of technology. He is co-host of CNET's "What The Future" series and Executive Producer of "Experts React." Aside from making videos, he's a certified SCUBA diver with a passion for music, films, history and ecology.
Expertise Future tech, sustainability, social impact of technology Credentials
  • Gold Telly Award, 2X Silver Telly Award
Jesse Orrall
2 min read

I attended a race earlier this year where the winning car went 180 mph with nobody behind the wheel. That's because everything was in the hands of artificial intelligence.

At the Indy Autonomous Challenge, teams from around the world crafted their very own AI driving systems and raced them head-to-head. The event was held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway as part of CES in January.

Big name brands from the automotive and computing world donated hardware to ensure every team was using the same basic vehicle and computing stack so that it really all came down to the AI. 

We spoke to representatives from various teams to learn about the challenges of building AI drivers to operate at such high speeds, what to do when you have a crash shortly before race day, and what gives their AI an edge over the competition.

In the end, only one team could take the checkered flag. In doing so, it set a world record for fastest autonomous driving on a racetrack.

In June, the challenge will head to Italy, where it will have its first event at the Monza F1 Racing Circuit. There, the AI drivers will be contending with a track that features twists and turns more akin to what drivers face in the real world.

To see these autonomous racers in action and meet the people making it all happen, check out the video above.

Correction, May 23: The original version of this article misstated the timing of the January race. It took place during CES. Also, the prize money mentioned in the original article was in fact offered at the first Indy Autonomous Challenge, in October 2021.