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Audi’s Autonomous Cup Uses Tiny Cars to Test Big Technology, Inspire Future Coders

College students are tasked with programming tiny Audis to make their way around miniature streets.

Audi has announced the time and place of a college-level event it calls the Audi Autonomous Driving Cup 2018. The Europe-only challenge (for now) sees several teams program 1:8 scale model cars to autonomously navigate through an appropriately sized “city” course complete with intersections, crossings, and street signs.

The model cars used in this competition were specially developed by Audi, and they feature technology similar to what can be found on the company’s full-scale prototype vehicles. According to the German automaker, the models utilize a “front camera, reversing camera, laser scanner, and ultrasound sensors” to make their way around. Also, each car is equipped with a nine-axis accelerometer to track vehicle motion, which works in conjunction with map data of the course’s miniature road.


In order to rank in this competition, each team will have to program its car to “drive around the course autonomously avoiding obstacles, correctly negotiating junctions with crossing traffic, recognizing road signs or following a preceding car at an appropriate distance.” The car must also be able to identify an emergency vehicle within its view and know how to respond accordingly.


Audi selected eight out of 15 teams that qualified for the Autonomous Cup. Each team consists of students that focus on robotics, software development, and artificial intelligence. The competition will take place over the course of three rounds. In the first, each team must complete the obstacle. The second will see them giving presentations on the technology within their vehicles, and in the third round, which known as the “open challenge,” students will be required to use the model car and its onboard AI to complete a creative task of their choosing. 

If you’re in Germany, spectators can head to the Audi Forum to watch the Autonomous Driving Cup final, which starts at 8:30 a.m. local time on Nov. 14. The winning team will be awarded a 10,000 euro cash prize, with second and third places receiving 5,000 and 1,000 euro prizes, respectively.