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Can AI based robot car win the race

A modern Formula 1 race is a breathtaking display of engineering precision. Yet the popularity of the sport arguably has less to do with the performance of the cars than with the skill and daring displayed by the drivers as they push those cars to the limit. Success on the race track has been a celebrated human achievement for more than a century. Will it now become a similar triumph for artificial intelligence (AI)?

The objective of this PhD research study is to develop an AI based robot driver that can achieve the most optimal laptime in the real racing tracks.

The objective in racing is easily defined: if you complete the circuit in less time than your competitors, you win. However, achieving this goal involves a complicated battle with physics, because negotiating the track requires careful use of the frictional force between the tire and the road, and this force is limited. Using some of that friction for braking, for instance, leaves less force available for rounding a corner. Brake too early going into a turn and your car is slow, losing time. Brake too late and you won’t have enough cornering force to hold your desired racing line as you near the tightest part of the turn. Brake too hard and you might induce a spin. Professional racing drivers are eerily good at finding and maintaining the limits of their car, lap after lap, for an entire race.

The study will address the following objectives:

  1. The handling limits of a car should be well described by physics, and it, therefore, stands to reason that they could be calculated or learnt by AI.
  2. To win the race, the AI based robot driver must choose trajectories that allow the car to stay within these ever-changing friction limits as much as it physically can.
  3. Using AI based controller for finding and maintaining the limits of the race car, lap after lap, for an entire race.
  4. 4. Demontrate the propsed AI based robot car can be well employed to extended racing tracks to achieve the best laptime than any human drivers.

There are potential collabration opportunities with the Formula car companies and racing teams to guide their racing car design and racing driver operations from the proposed AI based robot driver.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you would be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
  2. Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

Good luck!

This is a self funded topic

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.