Dr. Tom McCarthy | Accelerating Autonomy: Inside the Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League(A2RL) | Part Two

By Jamie Tyler and Ed Bernardon

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Welcome back to the Future Car Podcast in 2024! In our previous episode, we spoke to Tom McCarthy, Executive Director of ASPIRE. ASPIRE created, developed and manage the Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League (A2RL), so it was great to see the rationale behind the development of this series. In episode one, we explored the goals of ASPIRE, issues with the autonomous vehicle industry, and the make up of A2RL. Let’s take a look at part two 👇

What to expect from this episode

What does a race day look like in A2RL? 🏁

We take a look at the makeup of a typical race weekend for A2RL, as it vastly differs to that of a typical Formula One weekend! Pre-race day consists of a seeding event, with the eight cars then split into two groups. Once seeded, it’s effectively a round robin event, and the winners of each group will then compete against each other to win a prize fund. That’s before race day; be sure to listen in to learn exactly what happens on the day of the race.

How the autonomous vehicles are based on cars from the Japanese Super Formula Series 🏎️

Tom discusses all things technology, and why Dallara SF 23 car used in the Japanese Super Formula Series was used for the A2RL series. We discuss the technological tweaks that needed to happen to make the car suitable for A2RL, and how ultimately, the SF 23 can lap within 10% of a Formula One car. A very important factor when the goal for cars in the A2RL is to reach 50% of the ultimate lap time!

The technology needed to create a fully simulated racetrack 🖥️

Its true; ensuring the technological capabilities meet the needs of Tom and the team are a must! We talk about the importance of sensor placements around the track, creating AI personalities for the cars and the ability to collate and extract key raceday data.

Tom McCarthy is the Executive Director at ASPIRE, an organization focused on developing, or enhancing, new technologies with the goal of building a better future. ASPIRE is behind the creation of the Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League (A2RL), which hosted its first ever race in April of this year. 

In part 1 of this two-part interview, Tom and host Ed Bernardon talked about (among other things) the inspiration behind A2RL, how the race compares to others of its kind, and who Tom hoped the audience for this race would be. 

In Part 2 of this Future Car episode, Ed and Tom discuss the nature of the autonomous car that teams will use to race and how the teams will compete, what Tom hopes the greatest achievement of A2RL will be, and what he envisions for the future of racing. We also get to know Tom on a more personal level in our rapid fire section where Ed asks him questions like, what was the first car he ever owned? Did he pass his driver’s test on the first try? And what does his living room on wheels look like? 

Listen in to hear this and so much more!

Some Questions Asked

  • What are the steps that get you into that last race, and how long is the race going to be before you’re going to declare a winner? (1:25)
  • Do you see a lot of cooperation between the teams? And how do you balance that cooperation versus winning? (7:42)
  • How did you actually engineer the eyes and ears of the car? (16:59)
  • Have you seen any crashes yet? (25:22)

In This Episode You Will Learn 

  • How Tom thinks speeds of the autonomous vehicles will compare with human-driven vehicles (3:46)
  • What’s unique about A2RL (6:56)
  • About the car that will be raced during the A2RL (11:42)
  • How many A2RL races Tom envisions happening every year (29:07)
  • Who Tom would pick to ride in his ‘living room on wheels’ with (38:16)

Connect with Tom McCarthy


Connect with Ed Bernardon:

Dr. Tom McCarthy | Executive Director at ASPIRE

Dr. Tom McCarthy | Executive Director at ASPIRE

Dr. Tom McCarthy leads the Challenges and R&D Maturity units at ASPIRE. In this capacity he has overall responsibility for the Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League (A2RL). An economist by profession, he has held university professorships at Irish and Canadian universities. Past leadership roles have included: Executive Dean of the Business School at Dublin City University, VP Research at Maynooth University, Chairman of the Irish Advisory Science Council and member of the Higher Education Authority. As VP Research at Maynooth he established the Hamilton Institute and chaired the Governance Board of the APC Microbiome.

Ed Bernardon

Ed Bernardon

Ed is currently VP Strategic Automotive Initiatives at Siemens Digital Industries Software. Responsibilities include strategic planning and business development in areas of design of autonomous/connected vehicles, lightweight automotive structures and interiors. He is also responsible for Future Car thought leadership which includes hosting the Future Car Podcast and development of cross divisional projects. Previously he was a founding member of VISTAGY that developed light-weight structure and automotive interior design software acquired by Siemens in 2011, he previously directed the Automation and Design Technology Group at MIT Draper Laboratory.  Ed holds an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, B.S. in mechanical engineering from Purdue, and MBA from Butler.

The Future Car Podcast Podcast

The Future Car Podcast

Transportation plays a big part in our everyday life and with autonomous and electric cars, micro-mobility and air taxis to name a few, mobility is changing at a rate never before seen. On the Siemens Future Car Podcast we interview industry leaders creating our transportation future to inform our listeners in an entertaining way about the evolving mobility landscape and the people that are helping us realize it. Guests range from C-Level OEM executives, mobility startup founders/CEO’s, pioneers in AI law, Formula 1 drivers and engineers, Smart Cities architects, government regulators and many more. Tune in to learn what will be in your mobility future.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/podcasts/the-future-car/ed-bernardon/dr-tom-mccarthy-accelerating-autonomy-inside-the-abu-dhabi-autonomous-racing-leaguea2rl-part-two/