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Virtual vehicle: Graz-based researchers in the pole position for robot cars and software

The Autonomous Racing team © ARG

The computer controlled Roborace racing car Robocar, which operates at a speed of up to 282 km/h, is the fastest self-driving car in the world. Moreover, it was the highlight at this year's international symposium of the Competence Centre Virtual Vehicle in Graz.

Since 2019, the Autonomous Racing Team (ARG) has taken part in the international racing series ROBORACE for self-driving vehicle software. ROBORACE is the world's first autonomous driving competition for teams developing self-driving AI. In this case, the best software wins. Every team develops the vehicle software for each individual competition, in which the racing vehicle ROBORACE DevBot 2.0 made available to all the teams by the race organisers is operated to drive autonomously.

Researchers at the Institute for Control and Automation Technology at the Graz University of Technology and the Virtual Vehicle Research Centre work together with postdocs, PhD students and students on the vision of autonomous, intelligent driving. The team works on embedded artificial intelligence and its software implementation, which is subsequently tested in a simulation and then in autonomous racing cards and research vehicles. The Virtual Vehicle Research Centre makes an autonomous research vehicle (Ford Mondeo platforms) available for development and validation.

On a step-by-step basis, the required software elements and algorithms of the overall architecture covering the capabilities of sense-plan-act are developed, improved and optimised for high driving speeds and driving dynamics in racing.

The ARG already achieved impressive successes, with one second place and one first-place finish in the Season Alpha. It is currently ranked third in the current Season Beta (2020/2021). The special feature of the Season Beta is the integration of the so-called Metaverse, a mixed reality in which virtual obstacles appear on the real racing track. This is a particular challenge, especially when the team is in Graz due to the coronavirus whereas the car is operated on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Furthermore, the team is also participating in the DARPA Indianapolis Autonomous Challenge (IAC) to further expand its scope of experience.

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