UH-based team finishes third in driverless car challenge

Jan. 10—A University of Hawaii team vying in a prestigious international competition Saturday for the fastest autonomous vehicle streaked to third place among 18 teams from around the globe.

A University of Hawaii team vying in a prestigious international competition Saturday for the fastest autonomous vehicle streaked to third place among 18 teams from around the globe.

The UH team was one of nine teams from 18 universities spanning six countries that competed in the Autonomous Challenge @ CES, at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The UH AI Racing Tech team—a collaboration among UH Maui College, UH Manoa's College of Engineering, University of California San Diego, Carnegie Mellon University and UC Berkeley—entered the event as the top-ranked U.S. team, fresh off of its second-place finish Nov. 11 at the Indy Autonomous Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway.

At the November race, "I think there were some questions as to whether we really were the better team. Today really proved that we do have the strength to come out here and absolutely crush it, " C.K. Wolfe, a UH AI Racing Tech member and UC Berkeley graduate student, said Saturday during a live broadcast of the Las Vegas race.

The UH team's white, orange and lime-green car hit speeds topping 135 mph in the Autonomous Challenge, part of the annual Consumer Electronics Show.

All of the cars had identical hardware, including radar and GPS systems ; the software is where they differed. Instead of having a human driver, each autonomous vehicle had a collection of sensors acting as its eyes and ears, feeding data to and being controlled by an algorithm that students developed and tuned.

Once the cars left the pit area, they relied only on algorithms to drive. The UH AI Racing Tech team's website calls autonomous racing "the ultimate engineering challenge."

The Autonomous Challenge had teams compete in timed trials and elimination rounds before semifinal and final races. The cars were programmed to alternate between playing the role of leader (defender ) and passer /follower (attacker ). Passes were attempted at increasing speeds until one or both cars were unable to successfully complete a pass.

UH AI Racing Tech raced for third place against the MIT-PITT-RW team. The latter group included students from the University of Pittsburgh, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Waterloo and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. UH AI Racing Tech made several passes at speeds of more than 125 mph, while MIT-PITT-RW was unable to make its pass at 135 mph.

First place and the $150, 000 grand prize went to the team PoliMOVE from Politecnico di Milano, Italy, and the University of Alabama. TUM Autonomous Motorsport from the Technische Universitat Munchen in Germany took second place and $50, 000.