Acronis SIT Autonomous crushes the opposition in rounds 9&10

The Acronis SIT Autonomous Roborace team continued its utter dominance of Season Beta by winning both rounds of Mission 4 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Having also won five out of the last six rounds with a clean sweep last time out in Vegas, the SIT Autonomous was clearly the team to beat. Yet for rounds 9&10 of this first ever autonomous racing series, there would be an interesting change to proceedings, with ghost cars introduced for the teams to have to negotiate, rather than the fixed obstacles previously in place.

With the ultimate goal of the racing series to have several fully autonomous ‘Devbots’ competing on track at the same time, this marked an important step forwards to that end. This time, every overtake of a ghost car would shave 20 seconds off the overall time, whilst a collision would mean a 30s time penalty.

Some wacky new ‘ghost cars’ were introduced to Mission 4

The usual collection of virtual objects, known as ‘loot’, are worth two seconds off the overall lap time. Thus, an important decision would have to be made by the respective teams whether to take it easy, collect loot and program the software for overtakes or go for all out pace and risk hitting the ghost cars.

Again, it was the Acronis SIT Autonomous who had their software algorithms spot on in Round 9 with 7 brilliant overtakes of the ghost cars, only two hits and 5 loot objects collected. It meant just a minute of penalty time, but two and a half minutes shaved off for a quickest time at the circuit to date of 3m53.101s and a round victory over new Italian outfit PoliMOVE, Autonomous Racing Graz and regular challengers Arrival Racing.

“We are very happy with the result, we showed what we can do” commented Ilya Shimchik, team lead of SIT Autonomous. “As I said earlier, we didn’t know what to expect and fortunately the run was quite good for us and we overtook a lot of cars. We’re happy with this.

“Shortly we can say that our software can adapt to dolphins! But to be honest it’s kind of a way of unpredictability, because in some sense we can decide whether to overtake or not and if we think this is not safe for the car if you break some boundaries or safety margins with our software, we will not overtake. So I believe there was a difference between first and second attempt. The first time we didn’t overtake the dolphin, the second time we overtook it just because of initial conditions. Maybe the second time we were closer to the dolphin before the turn.”


Dolphins no problem as SIT Autonomous makes a splash in Round 10

You read it correctly when you saw Ilya talk about ‘dolphins’, as the new ghost cars in the Roborace metaverse this time featured some very weird and wonderful additions, more akin to a Nintendo video racing universe than a real racetrack! And it certainly spiced up proceedings.

“Actually we discussed that there would be ghost cars from the beginning of the season, so when we started the preparation for the season there was a technical discussion between all the teams in Roborace so we understood we would face ghost cars, but we never expected dolphins!

“To be honest we didn’t set any expectations for this round because we don’t know what to expect. We don’t know the behaviour of the ghost car and what to expect, so that’s why we didn’t actually set high expectations or low expectations. We just see what happens during the race.”

If round 9 was impressive for Acronis SIT Autonomous, the following day’s round 10 effort was even more so, the team’s software again running perfectly to enable eight overtakes, just a single hit and 10 loot objects collected. It meant a result time of 2m56.392 and yet another Roborace record at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The impressive PoliMOVE were again best of the rest from Americans MIT Driverless, Autonomous Racing Graz and Arrival Racing as University of Pisa again propped up the table.

“Everything went very well for us and we showed a good result,” added Ilya after his team again swept the board. “Also I believe that today’s performances were enough for our software to show it’s stable and can adapt to different variational obstacles with different speeds, different times on the track. It’s good, but as I said we know what we need to improve and there are a lot of things still to be done and we are far away from real racing and that’s what we will be working on.”

Although real racing between the Devbots may be some way away, the Artificial Intelligence software is already improving by the round in Roborace, as Ilya explains.

“We see in this race that sometimes we switch to the ‘follow mode’ because our AI decided that there’s not enough space to overtake and it’s better to be more safe and follow the ghost car. In some cases we can be more risky and overtake the car. We can sometimes predict where the ghost car will be and based on our predictions where it is better to overtake, so should we go to inner radius and inner turn or outer radius and outer turn.

“Here, there were probably one or two cases we did not overtake but possibly there was room for overtaking. Another thing we need to work on is low level controller to understand or deal better with controlling the car at the limits of handling.”

It all means that the Acronis SIT Autonomous team has an even stronger hold on the championship and leads the standings from Arrival Racing by 1500 points, having incredibly won seven out of the last eight rounds of racing.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.