Amazon is releasing a $400 self-driving toy car that you can program yourself – and it's launching a racing league to test your skills

Amazon Web ServicesAWS DeepRacer
  • Amazon Web Services is launching a self-driving race car, AWS DeepRacer, that you can buy for $US400 next year.
  • You can program this car to drive itself via a technique called reinforcement learning, which means it learns through trial and error.
  • Amazon is also launching a racing league for these DeepRacers.
  • The car is available to pre-order now.

Amazon Web Services, the retail giant’s massively profitable cloud computing business, is hitting the gas pedal on its push into artificial intelligence in an unusual way.

Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, announced AWS DeepRacer: A remote controlled car, retailing for $US400 when it becomes available next year, that developers can program to drive itself. This car is now available to pre-order on Amazon at a special introductory price of $US249.

This radio-controlled, four-wheel drive vehicle is 1/18th the size of an actual car. It’s trained using reinforcement learning, an AI technique that means the car will learn to drive better through trial and error. The car is rewarded for staying on the track, avoiding obstacles and more, helping the car to learn to drive more accurately over time.

This car uses an Intel Atom processor, and a 4 megapixel camera with 1080p resolution that has a heat map to detect obstacles, and WiFi access.

Users can program their DeepRacers themselves with their own reinforcement learning algorithms, training the car using Amazon SageMaker, Amazon’s artificial intelligence service. They can test-drive this car on a 3D simulator and virtually drive their car on a collection of tracks. Once developers determine their algorithm is good enough, they can plug the algorithm into the actual DeepRacer and let the real rubber hit the real road, as it were.

Importantly, the same principles used to train DeepRacer could also be used to program real-life self-driving cars that could carry humans or cargo.


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Racing league

In addition to the car itself, AWS is launching the DeepRacer League, an autonomous racing league that will hold matches at Amazon cloud events all next year. Developers can compete against each other by racing cars to see whose algorithms lead to the fastest race times.

“One of the things that is rally interesting as we watched a lot of our internal folks play around with DeepRacer was that people started forming races,” Jassy said onstage. “They started competing against each other.”

The winners of each race will advance to the AWS DeepRacer 2019 Championship Cup at next year’s Re:invent conference. But in the meantime, Amazon will hold its very first race Thursday morning, ahead of the next keynote session.

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