Robotic Car Racing


This page describes a prototype autonomous racing car being developed here at the University of Essex, sponsored by the IEEE Computational Intelligence Society.  When complete, the design for the prototype will be made available on this website.  The prototype is based on a high-end retail model car, a laptop, a GPS receiver, a USB controller and a camera. The aim is to encourage different research teams to develop autonomous racers using the same equipment in a series of races. We hope to have the first race at the IEEE 2010 World Congress on Computational Intelligence in Barcelona (to be confirmed).

The competition has similarities with the DARPA Grand Challenge, which involves full-sized vehicles, but has much lower development costs, with the prototype hardware costing around 1000 (approx 2000USD.  The challenges in developing an autonomous car are pretty similar whether the car is full size or a scaled-down model.  Experimenting with model cars is much less dangerous than full size ones!

An early prototype is shown below.  The main difference between this and the version featured in the videos below is the camera; we're now using a UniBrain Firewire camera.

The main components are:

  • E-Savage remote control car
  • Laptop PC
  • Video camera
  • USB GPS device
  • Speed sensors
  • Aluminium mounting plate
  • USB servo control board

The laptop pictured is a Toshiba model (approx 2kg, approx 650).  We're excited by the announcement of the ASUS Eee PC, which costs just over 200 and weighs only 0.92kg.  It also has a solid-state hard drive, meaning we can put the car through more extreme testing!


Team Photo

From left to right: Julian Togelius, Renzo de Nardi, Simon Lucas, Richard Newcombe, Hugo Gravato Marques.


The software to control the car is being set up on a sourceforge project.


We'll post more as the project develops.

  • New clips: going faster - click on pictures above.
  • Car under autonomous computer vision-based steering control (clip1, clip2; these are in QuickTime format).  Watch out for the car doing a forward roll at the end of clip1.  The car is driving at fast jogging speed (we think about 10 or 15mph; the speed sensors are not yet calibrated).
  • Test with camera on the car (watch for surprise at the end!) <link to youtube video>



The project has been featured on BBC Radio Essex, in the local newspapers (East Anglian Daily Times, Evening Gazette), and on various techie web sites.  See also this New Scientist article.

Our robotic car had a two minute feature on Anglia Television News
 (click link for video, but only available to UK readers).













Please contact Simon M. Lucas ( for more information.


  • IEEE CIS for sponsoring this initiative.
  • Robin Dowling and Malcolm Lear (Technical Staff) for building the initial prototype car hardware.


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