Some members also race vehicles in a different event at an outdoor track at Thunderhill Raceway Park in Northern California.
At these events, teams kick off the day by training the vehicles' neural networks. Then come races — just like Formula One — in the afternoon. The end of the day is reserved for "wheel-to-wheel" racing, which involves a lot of crashing and is more like a Demolition Derby than a Formula One race, he said.
Most of the vehicles they race are on the small side — as small as a tenth the size of a regular car — making them cheap and disposable, said Anderson. Most are built at a cost of around $100, though there are some full size car projects that cost up to $15,000.
But even the tiny cars use software and sensors that is similar to the technology used by big tech companies and well-funded startups road-testing full-sized cars, he said.
Instead of doing the processing on-board, these robot cars tend to transmit the data from their sensors — cameras, sonar, lidar, radar and GPS, for instance — via Wifi to a laptop. From there, the engineers run professional-grade artificial intelligence and robotics software which controls the vehicles. All the code is open source and made available to the community.