Driving Innovation Coming Out Of Purdue

Purdue University joins Westpoint Military Academy in designing a self-driven car for Saturday’s Indy Autonomous Challenge.


Grace Wesselhoft, Staff Writer

Gentlemen: Start your engines!

This Saturday, as cars gear up on the Brickyard for some fast-paced action, they will be equipped with all the latest technology intended to increase their performance. In fact, they will have virtually everything–expect for drivers.

Despite the lack of drivers, Indiana is not out of the running. Purdue University (along with IUPUI) is joining Westpoint Military Academy to build a team for the Indy Autonomous Challenge. Competing as Black & Gold Autonomous Racing, the will take to the 2.5 mile oval track, allowing them to join other teams from all over the world race these self-driven cars. 

Designers and spectators alike are still cautious about the risks and possibilities that could go wrong during these automated races. Although the teams have used STEM methods and worked with engineers and scientists, some still believe that dangers could occur. Lilli Godfrey, a sophomore at Elkhart High School, says, “One of the risks in a self-driving car would be that the car could spin out of control  and crash, causing an accident and making the other cars crash, as well.”

However, great efforts have been taken to avoid this. To be eligible, participants must have a qualified team and have been working together since 2019. This ensures that the team is fully prepared and that they have safely followed the guidelines put into play. The teams also have to secure enough fundraising to finance the equipment and other expenses needed to compete on this world stage. The teams will be made up of people from up to nine different countries. Of those nine countries, there will be 21 groups, but only ten teams. These teams will include people from Italy, Hawaii, Korea, Canada, and of course, the United States, to name a few. Out of the ten teams, only one will win the coveted  $1.5 million prize. 

The goal of this challenge extends beyond the hefty purse; it’s true value is in testing out an innovation that these engineering teams hope will one day be put into public use. Sophomore Christopher Vargas supports that mission. “Self-driving cars allow convenience for the drivers and the passengers.” Thus, he is anxious to see what Saturday’s race produces.

Whether people agree with self-driving cars or not, it is fast becoming a reality  And, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is helping to drive it in that direction.  Who knows: The Indy Autonomous Challenge just might out-perform the Indy 500 to become “the greatest spectacle in racing”!