On May 9, a group of Penn Engineering students won the 12th Annual F1Tenth Autonomous Grand Prix in San Antonio, Texas. The F1Tenth competition is an autonomous racing event that challenges teams from around the world to develop the best perception, planning and control algorithms to operate one-tenth-scale cars at their limits. It’s organized by an international community of researchers, engineers and autonomous systems enthusiasts. Penn Engineering beat out 12 other schools to assume the title.
Master’s graduates Jimmy Zhang, (SE’2023) and Rohit Bhikule (MEAM’2023) and Chandravaran Kunjeti and Jason Xie, both master’s students in Robotics, made up the winning team of Penn Engineering racing and technical enthusiasts. The team was advised by Rahul Mangharam, Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering (ESE).
According to the F1Tenth guidelines, it’s a battle of software: All of the teams use a common car platform and the goal is not to crash and minimize lap time. The team with the software that keeps the car safe yet pushes it to its performance limit wins.
“Our team’s victory during this event came down to our data-driven strategy,” said Xie. “Before we began to drive the car autonomously, we mapped out the track using the onboard LiDAR and designed an optimal race line that pushed the car to its theoretical limits. Then during practice runs, we constantly collected telemetry to inform us of the performance of the vehicle, allowing us to rapidly iterate our algorithms and improve lap time at a dramatically faster pace than our opponents.”
The goal of F1Tenth and ESE 6150: F1/10 Autonomous Racing Cars, the accompanying course offered by ESE, is to teach students to build safe autonomous systems. The convenience of the one-tenth-scale platform allows the students to experiment quickly on real hardware without the associated risks and costs of a full-sized vehicle. The hope of many of the students who participate in these competitions is to go on to build software for autonomous driving companies.