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Victory for the TU Wien in Virtual Car Racing Competition

Artificial intelligence was the key to the F1/TENTH Autonomous Grand Prix. The team "TU fast TU Furious" from the TU Wien took first place.

The race track, on which the TU Wien team won - and the model car which would have been used, hat the race not been turned into a virtual competition.

The virtual race track

The race track, on which the TU Wien team won - and the model car which would have been used, hat the race not been turned into a virtual competition.

The race track, on which the TU Wien team won - and the model car which would have been used, hat the race not been turned into a virtual competition.

Totally autonomous, without any external intervention, only with carefully developed artificial intelligence – this is how the racing cars have to compete against each other in the "F1/TENTH" competitions. Since 2016, students and research teams from universities all over the world have been competing to develop the best software to leave the competition behind on a model race track.

Up to now, the teams have always been given the same physical platform - a 1:10 scale model racing car. Therefore, the focus of the competition is entirely on the algorithms developed by the teams. This year, the F1/TENTH Grand Prix was held as part of the International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC) World Congress in Berlin. Due to the corona pandemic, this conference was held online, and therefore it was decided to hold the Grand Prix virtually as well: The programming task remained the same, but instead of controlling physical model cars, the algorithms were pitted against each other in a virtual environment.

From the TU Wien course to the race track

The team "TU fast TU furious" was created by the course "Autonomous Racing Cars master course", taught by Prof. Radu Grosu from the Institute for Computer Engineering at TU Wien. This course is unique in Austria, and one of few comparable courses in Europe: The course material (cameras, optical distance measurement technology, processors, etc.) was funded by the BMBWF infrastructure project CPS/IoT, which is intended to prepare Austria for the upcoming digital revolution.

For one semester, the students developed control codes based on deep learning algorithms. "From the most motivated of them, we then formed the TU team to compete against world-renowned universities, including MIT, UC Berkley and Stanford, or UPenn, who originally initiated the competition," says Radu Grosu.

The TU team eventually consisted of Thomas Pintaric (team leader), Mathias Lechner (IST Austria), Bernhard Schlögl, Axel Brunnbauer, and Andreas Brandstätter. Team consultants were Ramin Hasani, and Radu Grosu, also from the Institute for Computer Engineering, TU Wien.

"Based on the knowledge conveyed in our course, the team managed to develop a smart autonomous agent to steer the car," says Radu Grosu. "A whole range of algorithms and control strategies were tested before we decided on the best variant, which eventually won." For the algorithms themselves, it didn't matter if they were controlling a physical car or if they were in a purely virtual world, as was the case in this edition of the F1/TENTH Grand Prix.

The competition

The geometry of the race track was specified by the race management. The electronic agents then had to calculate an optimal path, and then apply various control strategies to keep their vehicle on that path. In a preliminary round, obstacles were placed on the course, which the autonomous vehicles had to avoid. "We didn't want to reveal anything about our strategy at this stage. So we put our focus on safety here and drove down the track very slowly. Without a crash, we were qualified for the main event, albeit with the slowest time," says team manager Thomas Pintaric.

Finally, on the main day of competition, the eight remaining teams competed against each other in pairs. "TU fast TU furious" won seven of the eight races and finally secured first place on 15 July 2020.

"Essentially, you needed three important components to win," says team member Mathias Lechner. "A good lap time, solid collision avoidance and aggressive tactics at the start. All teams managed to implement one or two of these points well. But only our team could reliably combine all three."

"This is a great success for us - especially considering the fact that it was the first time that TU Wien participated in the F1/TENTH competition", says Radu Grosu. "It was certainly not the last time. It shows that TU Wien has incredibly talented students who can successfully compete with teams from the best universities in the world".


Contact

Prof. Radu Grosu,
Institute for Computer Engineering
TU Wien
T: +43-1-58801-18210
radu.grosu@tuwien.ac.at

Dr. Ramin Hasani
Institute for Computer Engineering
TU Wien
T: +43-1-58801-18228
ramin.hasani@tuwien.ac.at

 

 

Das Team: TU fast TU furious: Thomas Pintaric, MAthias Lechner, Axel Brunnbauer, Bernhard Schögl, Ramin Hasani, Andreas Brandstätter, Radu Grosu

Das Team: TU fast TU furious

"Basierend auf dem Wissen, das in unserer Lehrveranstaltung vermittelt wurde, schaffte es das Team, einen klugen autonomen Agenten zu entwickeln, um das Auto zu steuern", sagt Radu Grosu. "Eine ganze Reihe von Algorithmen und Steuerungs-Strategien war getestet worden, bevor wir uns für die beste Variante entschieden, die dann schließlich auch gewann." Für die Algorithmen selbst spielte es keine Rolle, ob sie ein physisches Auto steuern, oder ob sie sich in einer rein virtuellen Welt befinden, wie das bei dieser Ausgabe des F1/TENTH Grand Prix der Fall war.

Der Wettbewerb

Von der Rennleitung wurde die Geometrie der Rennstrecke vorgegeben. Die elektronischen Agenten mussten dann einen optimalen Pfad berechnen, und dann verschiedene Kontroll-Strategien anwenden, um ihr Fahrzeug auf diesem Pfad zu halten. In einer Vorrunde wurden Hindernisse auf dem Parcours platziert, denen die autonomen Fahrzeuge ausweichen mussten. "Wir wollten in diesem Stadium noch nichts über unsere Strategie verraten. Daher setzen wir hier auf Sicherheit und fuhren die Rennstrecke sehr langsam ab. Ohne Crash waren wir für die Hauptrunde qualifiziert, wenn auch mit der langsamsten Zeit", berichtet Teamleiter Thomas Pintaric.

Am Hauptwettkampftag schließlich traten die acht verbliebenen Teams jeweils zu zweit gegeneinander an. "TU fast TU furious" konnte sieben von acht Rennen gewinnen und sicherte sich so am 15. Juli schließlich aden ersten Platz.

"Im Wesentlichen benötigte man drei entscheidende Komponenten um zu gewinnen", sagt Teammitglied Mathias Lechner. "Eine gute Rundenzeit, eine solide Kollisionsvermeidung und eine aggressive Taktik beim Start. Alle Teams schafften es, ein oder zwei dieser Punkte gut umzusetzen. Aber nur unser Team konnte alle drei zuverlässig miteinander kombinieren."

"Das ist für uns ein großartiger Erfolg – vor allem angesichts der Tatsache, dass die TU Wien zum ersten Mal beim F1/TENTH-Wettbewerb dabei war“, sagt Radu Grosu. „Es war sicher nicht das letzte Mal. Es zeigt, dass die TU Wien unglaublich talentierte Studierende hat, die sich erfolgreich mit Teams von den besten Universitäten der Welt messen können."


Kontakt

Prof. Radu Grosu,
Institut für Computer Engineering
Technische Universität Wien
T: +43-1-58801-18210
radu.grosu@tuwien.ac.at

Dr. Ramin Hasani
Institut für Computer Engineering
Technische Universität Wien
T: +43-1-58801-18228
ramin.hasani@tuwien.ac.at

Aussender:
Dr. Florian Aigner
PR und Marketing
Technische Universität Wien
Resselgasse 3, 1040 Wien
T +43-1-58801-41027
florian.aigner@tuwien.ac.at