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campus academics & research

Luddy School partners with CODE19 Racing to develop first AI driver

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The IU Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering and CODE19 Racing announced a partnership Sept. 28 to develop an autonomous AI driver. CODE19 Racing leaders joined Luddy students and faculty for a workshop Sept. 25-27 and a starting grid event, where they discussed the project and assigned roles, on Sept. 28. 

Based out of Indianapolis, CODE19 Racing is the world’s first professional autonomous racing franchise and works to push the limits of sport and automation technologies. CODE19 Racing was founded in 2023. 

“As an IU alumni-founded startup, we are excited to partner with the IU Luddy School to develop the next generation of advanced AI for autonomous race cars,” Lawrence Walter, principal and cofounder of CODE19 Racing, said in an IU press release. “The Luddy School is home to some of the brightest minds in artificial intelligence, and we are excited to help IU develop a world-class AI driver.” 

While the AI driver is scheduled for completion by March or April 2024, the partnership itself will last several years. The driver, which will be installed inside a physical race car, will be CODE19 Racing’s first AI driver to compete in global autonomous race car competitions. The first competition is scheduled for April 2024, but the race track’s location has not been determined. 

“We are focused on competing globally and showing the world what IU can do on the racetrack,” Walter said. 

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Luddy’s Vehicle Autonomy and Intelligence Lab will develop the autonomous AI driver. Lab leader Lantao Liu, associate professor of intelligent systems engineering, said this partnership has been in progress for some time. 

“A few years ago, IU was reached out to participate in the racing challenge,” Liu said. “We were not yet fully prepared.” 

Liu said IU’s engineering program was new, and he did not have enough students in his lab to work on the project. 

“At that moment, I recommended our school to postpone.” Liu said. 

The postponement allowed the program time to develop. Three years have passed, and eight Ph.D. students are now available. Each student will lead work on a separate component of the AI driver. 

Mahmoud Ali, a Ph.D. student in Luddy’s Vehicle Autonomy and Intelligence Lab, said the lab needs more students if it is to complete the AI driver by its March or April 2024 goal. 

“We are looking for master’s and undergraduate students that are wanting to work on this team,” Durgakant Pushp, another Ph.D. student in Liu’s lab, said. “It is a good opportunity for everyone in our university.” 

As for the partnership between Luddy and CODE19 Racing, the workshop and starting grid event served as an official starting point to this collaboration. Both sides met to discuss the project in detail and share code. 

“Before the workshop, we did not have a focused strategy,” Ali said. “We met the engineers from CODE19 and discussed what the roles would be in the competition.” 

IU’s role in the partnership involves developing software. 

“From IU’s side, we are trying to provide an AI driver — meaning we are developing some AI algorithms which will be used onboard the race car to replace the human driver,” Liu said. 

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IU will also contribute an interactive avatar for the AI driver, which will be developed by the Luddy School’s Indianapolis location. The interactive avatar will be placed inside the race car, displaying information and giving a face to the AI driver. Zebulun Wood, a media arts and science lecturer at the school’s Indianapolis location, will help develop the avatar. 

CODE19 Racing will provide and maintain physical a race car, initiate fundraising, handle logistics and guide the Luddy School. 

IU and CODE19 Racing are not the only partners in this collaboration, however. Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Crane Division will support a Ph.D. student at Luddy. 

NSWC Crane, a naval research and development laboratory located about 40 minutes southwest of Bloomington in Crane, Indiana, has partnered with IU since 2011. Research between the university and laboratory is focused on defense and security. 

“NSWC Crane is committed to advancing the state-of-the-art autonomous systems,” Charles Colglazier, NSWC’s IU liaison, said in an IU press release. “We’re excited to see how fast the Hoosiers’ AI driver can go.” 

Although the partnership is in full effect, students are still welcome to join the AI development efforts. Any student interested in participating should contact either Mahmoud Ali at alimaa@iu.edu or Durgakant Pushp at dpushp@iu.edu. Python and C++ programming skills are required. 

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