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CES Special – Restarting the IAC SIM races using AWSIM

Author: SAMET KUTUK
CES Special – Restarting the IAC SIM races using AWSIM

Welcome to another blog post as a part of our CES 2024 work to be showcased in Las Vegas between 9 and 12 of January 2024.

Autoware Foundation partnered with the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) and Autonoma to restart the IAC Sim Races using Autoware’s open-source simulator platform AWSIM.

Since the IAC Sim Races will be based on AWSIM, it’s a good idea to have a quick read about AWSIM before jumping into the IAC Sim Races.

Here’s the link from Autoware Blog: https://autoware.org/awsim-end-to-end-digital-twin-simulation-platform/

We also recorded a podcast with Will Bryan, CEO of Autonoma, to talk about why SIM races are important, what type of integration was undertaken for autonomous racing and some progress on the practice round that has been going on for a while.

Watch the full podcast episode on Autoware’s YouTube channel.

Let’s do a quick overview of the Indy Autonomous Challenge

If you are into autonomous racing, you must have heard of the Indy Autonomous Challenge. Dallara-built AV21 vehicles, retrofitted with hardware, sensors and control to enable automation (efforts led by Clemson University on preparing the sensors and compute in a singular package), racing on world-famous race tracks, setting up new speed records and improving performance virtually every other race are what Indy Autonomous Challenge offers.

Seeing the IAC racecars competing on the flying laps at the famous Monza track (The Temple of Speed) was a thrilling experience for us (Christian John and myself) when we were invited to the IAC event in Monza. That was about June when Autonoma was working on integrating the racing elements into Autoware’s open-source simulation platform AWSIM.

Here’s a throwback to that day:

 

Sim Races: Why is it important?

In the 2020-2021 season, IAC organized a series of autonomous SIM races, which allowed 31 teams comprised of 40 universities across four continents to test their AI drivers and determine their readiness to compete in on-track competitions.

Although it’s a thrilling experience to witness racecars at the on-track competitions, the number of teams that compete at IAC is limited by the number of available racecars. Not all universities can raise the funding necessary to afford to get a Dallara AV-21 vehicle. Even if they could, there are only 10 of them available, and they are all pretty much all accounted for.

SIM races are a solution to break down barriers of funding or physical car availability. Virtually any team could develop AI drivers to compete with others around the globe. Additionally, sim races prepare teams to progress to real-world, on-track competitions.

The IAC is relaunching the autonomous SIM races in partnership with the Autoware Foundation to develop the official IAC racing simulation platform integrated into the Autoware Foundation’s open-source simulation platform, AWSIM. Autonoma, a startup founded by former IAC contestants, provides integration of simulation modeling that replicates real-world IAC racecars and the race tracks integrated into AWSIM.

How are we restarting the Sim Races through Autonoma’s contributions?

Autonoma is a startup founded by former IAC university team (Auburn University) members, and they bring years of experience working with the IAC racecars. Autonoma’s core business is simulation, and that’s why they were a natural fit for the Autoware Foundation to partner with to enhance AWSIM with racing capabilities.

“The basics of the simulation are based on AWSIM, but we have been working with IAC teams since our founding in 2022 to create a really accurate digital twin of the vehicles: the dynamics, the sensors, the environments and the interfaces, so by partnering with the Autoware Foundation we’ve taken what we developed and we integrated that into AWSIM platform. We are providing that to the teams as a resource for their testing and preparations for the actual events and the SIM races,” said Will Bryan, CEO of Autonoma, in our podcast episode. 

Autonoma created a competition version of the simulator, an executable that Autonoma provides to all participating teams that are registered.

Visit Autonoma’s GitHub for the SIM races repository.

Autonoma created a highly accurate vehicle model of the IAC racecar, including suspensions, tires, and aerodynamics models to create a realism that is necessary for high-speed (around 180 mph or 300 kmh) racing. They also replicated the sensor models for the onboard IAC racecars including three GNSS/IMUs, six cameras, three LiDARs, and three radars. Not only the perception and localization related sensors but also beyond the external sensors they replicated hundreds of sensors on the vehicle itself that the competing teams interface with through the CANBUS.

Autonoma also created the assets for Monza track, down to the level of tire marks on the curbs to provide the confidence for the competing teams on the simulation, as they transition from simulation to on-track competing, they should expect to see same behaviour during their development process.


Interested to learned more? Tune in to our podcast with Will, we got into quite some details about the preparation work done by Autonoma, as well as the progress on the practice rounds.

See you in our next blog!