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IU Luddy School partners with CODE19 Racing to develop autonomous racing AI

For Immediate Release Sep 28, 2023

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana University will partner with the world’s first professional autonomous racing franchise, CODE19 Racing Inc., to participate in global competitions of self-driving race cars, an emerging sector in the world of racing.

A group of people sit on a large staircase in a sunlight atrium. IU associate professor Lantao Liu, IU Luddy School Dean Joanna Millunchick and CODE19 Racing co-founders Lawrence Walter and Oliver Wells, front row from left, with IU Luddy School graduate students involved in the AI driver project. Photo by Chris Kowalczyk, Indiana University

IU and CODE19 kicked off the partnership Sept. 26 to 28 during a workshop and “starting grid” event with graduate students and faculty at the IU Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering, who will create the first AI driver for CODE19.

“We are thrilled to partner with CODE19 Racing,” said Joanna Millunchick, dean of the IU Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering. “This is an unmatched opportunity for our students to apply their skills to real-world problems and to compete against the best AI teams in the world. AI racing truly has the potential to advance autonomous vehicle technology in the same way that motorsports technology has advanced the consumer automotive industry.”

A member of the IU Ventures’ Founders and Funders Network, CODE19 has a mission of accelerating the development of autonomous driving technology by developing and racing autonomous race cars at the highest level.

“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,” said, Lawrence Walter, president of CODE19 Racing. “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.

“With the Luddy School at the controls, CODE19 will race in global competitions for autonomous race cars. These experimental competitions help accelerate the development of autonomous driving technology by providing a challenging and competitive environment for teams to test their AI drivers.”

A man gestures towards a screen with a video of a race car before a crowd Lawrence Walter discusses an early demonstration of an AI race car driver in a simulated video environment during the “Starting Grid” event at Luddy Hall at IU Bloomington. Photo by Chris Kowalczyk, Indiana University

The Luddy School is one of the largest and most comprehensive schools of its kind in the world. The CODE19 Racing AI driver will be developed by the school’s Vehicle Autonomy and Intelligence Lab, a state-of-the-art robotics research team led by Lantao Liu, a Luddy School associate professor of intelligent systems engineering.

An expert on robotics and artificial intelligence, Liu focuses on developing autonomous systems involving single or multiple robots with applications in autonomous navigation, smart transportation, and search and rescue. His lab specifically focuses on enhancing the autonomy and intelligence of robotic systems such as unmanned ground, aerial and aquatic vehicles.

The team will also have access to the deep pool of talent in informatics, computer science and engineering at the Luddy School in Indianapolis. Indianapolis-based advisors include Zebulun Wood, a lecturer in media arts and science, who will help develop the strategy for an interactive “avatar” for the AI driver, putting a face on the technology and interacting with the world.

In addition to the Luddy School’s resources, the project will benefit from IU’s partnership with Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, which will support a Luddy Ph.D. student to advance development of the team’s AI driver.

Three men having a conversion on the floor of a convention center. IU Luddy faculty members Lantao Liu, right, and Zeb Wood, center, speak with Lawrence Walter, founder and CEO of CODE19 Racing, before the partnership announcement at the Rally Conference in Indianapolis in August. Photo by Justin Casterline, Indiana University

A naval research and development laboratory in Crane, Indiana, NSWC Crane is responsible for developing and testing naval technologies, including autonomous systems.

“NSWC Crane is committed to advancing the state-of-the-art autonomous systems,” said Charles Colglazier, NSWC Crane liaison for IU and the National Security Innovation Network. “This innovative initiative with CODE19 Racing and IU will help rapidly develop and test new dual-use autonomous technologies that could be used to support the warfighters in the field. We’re excited to see how fast the Hoosiers’ AI driver can go.”

Support from the partnership will help attract top talent to the team and accelerate the development of the AI driver, Walter said.

“We are confident that our team has the skills and resources to manage winning AI drivers,” Walter said. “We are focused on competing globally and showing the world what IU can do on the race track.”

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