Skip to main content

Autonomous drivers—Start your engines!

a close up of a road

Evening speedy motion blur international race track with starting finishing line and light .

At the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it’s certainly not unusual to see the sleek, aerodynamic shape of an Indy racecar exploring the limits of the track piloted by one of the world’s best and fastest drivers. But to see the same, without a driver?

As an automotive enthusiast and racing fan myself, this one caught my attention. The Indy Autonomous Challenge, led by Energy Systems Network, an Indianapolis-based non-profit, set out an ambitious challenge: empowering university students to develop and demonstrate autonomous technologies in a live race event featuring the same Dallara AV-21 cars used during the IndyCar season, outfitted for an autonomous mission. The goal of this challenge? Drive awareness to the positive impact automation can have to address real-world issues such as improving road safety and reducing vehicle energy consumption.

While safety is one key area impacted by vehicle automation, the Indy Autonomous Challenge also recognizes the barriers that are impacting the advancement of these technologies. The group strives to remove these barriers by bringing cases to light which address extreme safety scenarios, Increasing the talent pool and engineers to develop new intellectual property, and public engagement to bolster understanding and confidence in automated vehicles and the benefits they can provide to individuals and society.

As with any race, the stakes for this challenge were high—a $1 million USD prize to the university displaying the most autonomous prowess during the October 23, 2021 challenge event. One of the highlights of this initiative that is in-line with Microsoft’s capabilities in the automotive industry is high-performance compute and simulation. These capabilities enable automotive OEMs to accelerate innovation in the areas of advanced driver assistance (ADAS) systems, and autonomous driving (AD) systems. As a sponsor of this initiative, Microsoft provided an Azure high-performance cloud computing environment to support development efforts associated with the initiative.

Like our support of the Indy Autonomous Challenge, Microsoft is empowering our customers to drive accelerated innovation in automotive, including autonomous vehicle development. Customers such as Audi AG and others are leveraging Azure High-Performance Computing (HPC) to cost-effectively manage engineering simulation environments such as prototyping, aerodynamics, physics, sensor performance testing, and autonomous driving validation.

It’s an exciting time in the autonomous space right now as we’ve seen with recent announcements and developments in areas from alternate fuel-cell technology and autonomous deliveries, to autonomous shared mobility services. In addition to the latest investment into advanced mobility brought by the partnership of Cruise, GM and Microsoft to commercialize a new generation of self-driving vehicles.

My name is Aaron Lee, and I’ve recently joined our exciting automotive, mobility, and transportation team at Microsoft as Product Marketing Lead. I look forward to engaging with you on views and insights into the automotive industry, and along with my esteemed industry colleagues, share how Microsoft is helping our customers drive innovation in the movement of people and goods.

While I still enjoy cheering on my favorite drivers in the intricate and harmonious blend of human and machine in racing, it is also exciting to see opportunities like this challenge our way of thinking to solve complex problems in innovative ways. Be sure to follow to learn more about Autonomous driving and other industry imperatives that Microsoft is leading in the fields of automotive, mobility and transportation.

With a mission to impact the movement of people and products, Microsoft accelerates the transformation of automotive companies from traditional manufacturers to mobility service providers building omnichannel personalized experiences for their customers. Utilizing insights collected across customer touchpoints, the vehicle, employees, and manufacturing, Microsoft empowers these organizations to accelerate technology innovation and monetize their own data through new services, redefining mobility as an industry. Microsoft does this by focusing on trust, innovation, security, and compliance, all powered by our extensive global partner ecosystem.