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At New College House, small self-driving cars race each other

At New College House, small self-driving cars race each other

On Wednesday night, students across the Penn community watched a self-driving car fly through a racetrack in the New College House Dining Pavilion.

They were attending the F1/10 Autonomous Racing demonstration, an initiative that encourages students to explore self-driving vehicles by developing a F1 race car at 1/10th of its regular scale. The event, co-organized by campus groups Science and Technology Wing and Penn Women in Computer Science, was anchored by Penn Engineering professor Rahul Mangharam, who serves as director of Mobility21, a joint initiative with Carnegie Mellon University and the U.S. Department of Transportation to increase road safety and mobility.

“The goal of our work is to design safe, autonomous systems,” Mangharam said.

In an effort to expand knowledge on autonomous vehicles, Mangharam created the F1/10 Autonomous Racing Competition in 2016 with the intention of creating a “department of autonomy” on campus.

“The department of autonomy is all about how we work with real world data, and how we make decisions that are safe, fair, and affordable,” Mangharam said. “That is a combination of computer science, electrical engineering, and ethics.”

With the mantra “1/10 the size, 10x the fun,” F1/10 provides a series of online courses and videos so that any team can build and race an autonomous race cars on a small scale. Mangharam led the Penn team in an F1/10 race in Porto, Portugal in April, one of two global competitions that take place every year.

F1/10 enables students to work directly with the hardware that goes into building autonomous vehicles, without the constraints and safety restrictions of driving on an actual road, organizers said. Mangharam hopes to learn about the most risky driving conditions through racing the vehicles, and use this to improve new self-driving vehicles that are starting to go on the roads. In order to minimize the risk of […]

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