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Clemson Autonomous Racecar featured at CES

January 15th, 2021

Indy Autonomous Challenge unveils racecar for world’s first head-to-head, high-speed autonomous race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

“The Dallara-built IAC racecar is the most advanced, fastest autonomous vehicle ever developed.” Paul Mitchell, president and CEO of ESN

INDIANAPOLIS  (JAN 11, 2021) — Energy Systems Network (ESN) and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), organizers of the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC), today unveiled the official racecar that will be autonomously driven by scores of university teams in the world’s first high-speed, head-to-head autonomous race at the Racing Capital of the World on Oct. 23, 2021.

The primary goal of the IAC is to advance technologies that can speed the commercialization of fully autonomous vehicles and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), leading to increased safety and performance. In addition, the IAC is a challenging competition to excite the best and brightest university students from around the world to engage in hands-on engineering firsts.

“The Dallara-built IAC racecar is the most advanced, fastest autonomous vehicle ever developed,” stated Paul Mitchell, president and CEO of ESN, and co-organizer of the IAC. “Our IAC sponsors are providing radar, lidar, optical cameras and advanced computers, bringing the value of each vehicle to $1 million.”

IAC Unveiling _JGS-2020-Indy-Autonomous-Challenge-199508-1 - retouched - resizedThe IAC is scheduled for October 23, 2021, at the IMS, with a qualifying simulation race during the Indy 500 week in May. The total IAC prize purse is $1.5 million: $1 million awarded to the winning team of the October IAC race, and an additional $500,000 for winners of the hackathons and simulation races, awarded by IAC sponsor, Ansys.

More than 500 undergraduate and graduate students, PhDs and mentors who excel in artificial intelligence software, have responded to the challenge, representing 39 universities in 11 countries on four continents and 14 U.S. states.

Inspiration for the IAC was the DARPA Grand Challenge, as explained by 2005 winner, Sebastian Thrun: “The DARPA Grand Challenge proved that robots can drive themselves in very confined environments, but that they don’t have the agility and skill of a really well-trained human racecar driver to act in extreme situations. IMS is the best place in the world to challenge the robotics community to test self-driving cars. By going into a racing context, we will stretch self-driving cars to the absolute limit.”

The Modified Dallara IL-15 Autonomous Racecar 

Since 2002, Dallara has been the sole racecar supplier of the Indy Lights series, and now the modified Dallara IL-15 is the official IAC racecar.

“Dallara is the best racecar engineering company in the world yet designing the chassis for autonomous racing was really challenging,” explained Stefano dePonti, CEO and general manager of Dallara USA. “Dallara loves innovation and technological challenges, and we share the IAC’s passion for education and motorsports.”

Dallara IL-15 photo

The modified Dallara is retrofitted with hardware and controls to enable automation to enhance safety, control and performance. Components include rugged-edge on-board computing, vehicle-to-vehicle communications, perception systems, high-end graphics processing units (GPUs), drive-by-wire, and artificial intelligence acceleration and powerful central processing units to run IAC teams’ software and algorithms in the racecar.

One of the challenges for autonomous racing is solving edge case scenarios – challenges that occur only at extreme operating parameters, such as avoiding unanticipated obstacles at high speeds.

“We know how the world’s best racecar drivers react in the Dallara, in high-speed scenarios, but now we have to anticipate the actions of a robot,” added dePonti.

Innovation at IMS

IMS has been a catalyst and proving ground for motorsport and transportation innovation since its inception in 1909. IMS hosts the crown jewel of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, the Indianapolis 500 — annually the world’s largest single-day sporting event. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES is North America’s premier open-wheel racing series.

“The IAC is going to bring the best minds from around the world to solve a very complex problem, right here at the Racing Capital of the World,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “As the birthplace of motorsports’ innovation, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a fitting setting for this event, and we can’t wait to see the winning entry cross the Yard of Bricks into history.”

IAC Sponsors and Contributors

Indiana Economic Development Corporation, ADLINK, Ansys, Aptiv, AutonomouStuff, Bridgestone, Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR), Dallara, Microsoft, New Eagle, PWR, RTI, Schaeffler, and Valvoline. See IndyAChallenge.com for more information about these amazing companies realizing autonomous mobility.

About the Indy Autonomous Challenge

The Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC), organized by Energy Systems Network and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, is a $1.5 million prize competition among universities to program modified Dallara IL-15 racecars and compete in the world’s first autonomous head-to-head race around the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway on October 23, 2021. Racing at speeds of up to 200 mph, the primary goal of the IAC is to advance technology that can speed the commercialization of fully autonomous vehicles and deployments of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). These enhancements will lead to increased safety and performance in all modes of racing and commercial transportation. In addition, the competition is a platform for students to excel in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

About Energy Systems Network (ESN)

ESN is one of the primary organizers of the Indy Autonomous Challenge. ESN was founded in 2009, as part of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP), to accelerate the pace of energy and transportation technology development and commercialization. ESN works with companies throughout the world to advance new technologies and solutions through industry research, pilot projects, collaborative convening and the development and deployment of innovation models. ESN has played a leading role in launching the first and largest all-electric car sharing system in the U.S., the largest electric bus fleet, and the first Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) public fleet contract.

About the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS)

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the world’s largest spectator sporting facility, has been the worldwide leader in motorsports entertainment since opening in 1909. IMS hosts the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, the world’s largest single-day annual sporting event, which features the stars of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Additional major races at the famed venue also include INDYCAR’s GMR Grand Prix on the IMS road course and one of NASCAR’s crown jewels, the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard.

Clemson, U.S. Army to develop next generation of autonomous vehicle tools

January 12th, 2021
Image of military vehicles driving on dirt roads.

This past summer at Fort Carson, Col., modified Bradley Fighting Vehicles, known as Mission Enabling Technologies Demonstrators, and modified M113 tracked armored personnel carriers, or Robotic Combat Vehicles, were used for the Soldier Operational Experimentation (SOE) Phase 1 to further develop learning objectives for the Manned Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) concept.

Automotive autonomy technology is changing economies and global industries – and is also a driving force behind military modernization. Bringing these self-driving vehicles to life on- and off-road requires new concepts and algorithms to be tested expeditiously and cost-effectively – all of which happen through virtual prototyping. This key enabler for autonomy is the focus behind a new $18 million center housed at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) and a research partnership with the U.S. Army Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC).

The Virtual Prototyping of Ground Systems (VIPR-GS) Center will serve as the impetus for the research project. As founding director of VIPR-GS, Zoran Filipi will lead more than 65 Clemson faculty across seven engineering departments on the multi-year research partnership with GVSC to develop virtual prototyping tools supporting the rapid transformation of U.S. Army fleets. The research will be focused on autonomy-enabled ground vehicles, including digital engineering, next-generation propulsion and energy systems, and manned and unmanned teaming in unknown off-road environments.

The Center will leverage a systems engineering approach to propel research breakthroughs in off-road vehicle autonomy and vehicle propulsion. Research activities will also take place on Clemson’s main campus and will include learning opportunities for students at all levels.

“Autonomous systems and connected vehicles are some of the most significant factors shaping the mobility industry today, and the work being done in off-road autonomy is truly the next frontier. CU-ICAR was designed to foster research and partnerships to benefit our future. Through our deep research strengths and interdisciplinary culture, Clemson is uniquely positioned to lead the way in this important work,” said Clemson President Jim Clements.

Breakthrough research for autonomous off-road development

Researchers will build and validate various virtual models and simulations for off-road vehicles with advanced electrified propulsion, situational intelligence, AI-enabled autonomy and team-routing algorithms. The Center will support one of the Army Big Six Modernization Priorities – developing next-generation combat vehicles – by providing tools for technology roadmaps and hardware demonstrations.

“The VIPR Center will be an essential part of a Ground Vehicle Modeling and Simulation Alliance that GVSC will rely on as it leads the U.S. Army in the integration of new capabilities into military ground vehicles,” said David Gorsich, US GVSC Chief Scientist.

Three themes characterize the research efforts: Off-road autonomy for multi-scale vehicle fleets; propulsion systems and smart energy; and virtual prototyping and digital engineering for autonomy-enabled off-road vehicles. Models, algorithms, analytical capabilities and decision-making tools resulting from the research will be evaluated by building a physical mock-up of an optionally manned, non-combat, off-road ground vehicle. As the project’s final phase, discoveries and breakthrough innovations from the Center will be fabricated and validated via Deep Orange, the University’s long-running educational prototyping program.

The Deep Orange program takes automotive engineering students through a two-year product development process that culminates in a fully functional concept. The program encourages learning by doing, transdisciplinary teamwork, leadership and project management skills to best prepare students for the workforce. Deep Orange has been sponsored by industry leaders such as AVX, BMW, ExxonMobil, EY, Ford, GM, Honda R&D Americas, Mazda, MINI and Toyota.

Driving innovation through industry partnerships

The Center’s impact will reach beyond any single project by compressing time needed for design and development in the autonomous space. Not only will this allow partners to significantly reduce timelines for innovation, but virtual prototyping enables new design capabilities that cut across industry sectors and applications.

Center leadership will involve industry to amplify breakthrough innovation and translation. By aligning strategic partners with Clemson’s research strengths in artificial intelligence, simulation and advanced computing, the Center will fuel the next wave of mobility to be smarter, safer and more robust.

As one of the nation’s most active research institutions, the Center builds on Clemson’s national reputation for research excellence. Clemson was recently cited alongside some of the nation’s most elite universities as a top “10 Innovative Engineering Institute,” by Mechanical Engineering, the flagship magazine of The American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

The Center is designed to accelerate the development and validation of high impact technologies, acting as a catalyst for economic growth. Driven by fundamental research, the Center supports South Carolina’s economic development efforts, industry innovation priorities and the development of a highly skilled workforce.

“This type of work is the driving force behind why South Carolina invested in our idea for the CU-ICAR campus, and we are grateful for the legislature’s continued support and the hard work of Congressman Clyburn and Senator Graham to bring this project to life. It will pave the way for opportunities for our faculty, our students and our state,” said Clements.

Funding for VIPR-GS is from the United States Department of Defense.


Additional quotes for media consideration

“For the last decade, we have diligently strengthened and expanded our capabilities to become the nationally-recognized institution we are today,” said Zoran Filipi, chair of the Department of Automotive Engineering and founding director of the VIPR-GS Center. “From our skilled autonomous vehicle research team to our unmatched expertise in advanced propulsion and systems engineering DNA, this is exactly the type of high-impact, multi-disciplinary, ambitious research challenge we were built for.”

“Our innovation campuses were founded to create partnerships that provide key research and learning opportunities to benefit South Carolina, the region, and the nation, and we are thankful for our government partners and their continued support of the CU-ICAR campus,” said Angie Leidinger, vice president for External Affairs. “This funding is a true testament to the value Clemson provides to research and industry, and we look forward to engaging corporate partners across the country to participate in this work with us.”

“This award is a testament to the transformative, world-class research we are pursuing at Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) in the broader area of transportation,” said Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences at Clemson University. “Under the leadership of Dr. Filipi, we have assembled the world’s brightest engineers and scientists to work on solving some of the most compelling multidisciplinary problems in autonomous systems and connected vehicles.”

“This center aligns greatly with Clemson’s growing research strengths and expertise, as well as our robust workforce development efforts and industry collaborations that fuel innovation and economic growth. This is sure to be a win for Clemson faculty and students, the U.S. Army and the state of South Carolina,” said Tanju Karanfil, vice president for research.

Clemson builds advanced composites reputation with new research center

September 29th, 2020

Clemson Composites Center to support partners, state through high-impact R&D

When it comes to mega trends driving efficiency and sustainability for industry, the advanced materials space is one of the fastest growing high-potential areas for technological advancement.

In response to industry demand, Clemson University has partnered with the State of South Carolina to launch a full-spectrum advanced materials research and development center to drive breakthrough innovation for the state’s automotive, aerospace, defense and energy clusters.

The Clemson Composites Center combines decades of expertise and state-of-the-art equipment to bring all stages of the engineering lifecycle in one institution, from fundamental science and molecular engineering to rapid prototyping and full-scale commercialization.

“The complexity of high-impact innovation requires collaboration across partners from multiple sectors, which is why we continue to prioritize and invest in advanced manufacturing expertise and infrastructure,” Clemson President Jim Clements said. “This Center has already proven to be a research and development catalyst for the state and will continue to do so for many decades into the future.”

The 6,500-square-foot Center will strengthen the University and South Carolina’s national reputation for innovative composites research for the mobility industry, including the engineering of lighter, stronger, affordable, more sustainable composites solutions for cars, planes and beyond.

Srikanth Pilla

“Lightweight and advanced materials are crucial for a more sustainable and efficient future,” Clemson Composites Center Founding Director Srikanth Pilla said. “Everything we’ve built is designed to catalyze breakthrough innovation, from the Center’s integrated physical infrastructure to our holistic, interdisciplinary research and development approach. By working hand in hand with our partners, we’re can better deliver high-TRL research that moves us towards that goal.”

The heart of the Center – a new composites material laboratory – is being commissioned at the Greenville Technical College’s Center for Manufacturing Innovation (CMI), adjacent to the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR). The lab will come online as early as Q1 2021. As part of CMI, the Center can expand aspects of technical training for Greenville Technical College’s advanced manufacturing and engineering students. A key component of the Center’s vision is to address workforce development challenges by offering graduate and technical students to chance to both collaborate, learn and  innovate in the same state-of-the-art research space.

The Center’s first project will be the completion of Pilla’s ambitious $5.8M research project to redesign a driver’s side door to be lighter, stronger and smarter using advanced composites. The interdisciplinary project team – which includes the U.S. Department of Energy and Honda R&D Americas, among other partners – will use the Center’s specialized equipment to build and validate the final prototype. The project has pushed the limits of component and material design for lightweighting, proving manufacturers don’t have to sacrifice safety, function, fit or production costs for fuel efficiency and sustainability.

Working closely with companies, the Center is designed to accelerate the development and validation of high impact technologies, acting as a catalyst for economic growth. By transforming and commercializing cost-effective, efficient and sustainable solutions, the Center supports South Carolina’s economic development efforts, industry innovation priorities and the development a highly skilled workforce.

Two men hold automotive parts, inspecting them together.

“The Clemson Composites Center is part of South Carolina’s broader strategy to develop innovative resources for the aerospace and automotive sectors, which are critical to continued economic development within our borders,” said South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt. “This is a powerful tool to both attract new industry and help existing businesses grow and succeed in our state.”

The advanced materials industry, which includes composite materials, has brought 10,200 advanced materials jobs and $7.2 billion in capital investment to the state since 2011, according to the S.C. Department of Commerce. South Carolina is home to more than 800 advanced materials and composites companies.

“From OEMs to suppliers in automotive, aerospace and beyond, the global reputation of CU-ICAR is directly tied to our ability to support our partners and advance economic development in South Carolina,” said David Clayton, CU-ICAR Executive Director and assistant vice president for the Office of Corporate Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives. “We’re proud to say this new center does both.”

The Clemson Composites Center will launch with a cross-disciplinary leadership team and professional staff, and will be driven by support from research assistants, PhD students and CU-ICAR technicians.



Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research
The Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) is a 250-acre advanced-technology research campus where university, industry and government organizations collaborate. CU-ICAR offers master’s and Ph.D. programs in automotive engineering and is conducting leading-edge applied research in critical areas, such as advanced product-development strategies, sustainable mobility, intelligent manufacturing systems and advanced materials. CU-ICAR has industrial-scale laboratories and testing equipment in world-class facilities.

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