AWS Machine Learning Blog

Getting started with AWS DeepRacer community races

AWS DeepRacer allows you to get hands-on with machine learning (ML) through a fully autonomous 1/18th scale race car driven by reinforcement learning, a 3D racing simulator on the AWS DeepRacer console, a global racing league, and hundreds of customer-initiated community races.

With AWS DeepRacer community races, you can create your own race and invite your friends and colleagues to compete. The AWS DeepRacer console now supports object avoidance and head-to-bot races in addition to time trial racing formats, enabling racers at all skill levels to engage and learn about ML and challenge their friends. There’s never been a better time to get rolling with AWS DeepRacer!

The Accenture Grand Prix

We have worked with partners all over the world to bring ML to their employees and customers by enabling them to host their own races. One of these partners, Accenture, has been hosting its own internal AWS DeepRacer event since 2019. Accenture enables customers all over the world to build artificial intelligence (AI) and ML-powered solutions through their team of more than 8,000 AWS-trained technologists. They’re always looking for new and engaging ways to develop their teams with hands-on training.

In November 2019, Accenture launched their own internal AWS DeepRacer League. The Accenture league was planned to run throughout 2020, spanning 30 global locations in 17 countries, with a physical and virtual track at each location, for their employees to compete for the title of Accenture AWS DeepRacer Champion. At the start of their league season, Accenture hosted some in-person local events, which were well-attended and received, but as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, Accenture pivoted to all virtual events. This was made possible with AWS DeepRacer community races. Accenture quickly set up and customized races with the ability to select, date, time, track, and invite participants.

This fall, Accenture takes their racing to a new level with their 2-month-long finals championship, the Accenture Grand Prix. This event takes advantage of the latest update to community races as of October 1, 2020: the addition of object avoidance and head-to-bot racing formats. In object avoidance races, you use sensors to detect and avoid obstacles placed on the track. In head-to-bot, you race against another AWS DeepRacer bot on the same track and try to avoid it while still turning in the best lap time. You can use visual information to sense and avoid objects being approached on the track.

Amanda Jensen, Associate Director in the Accenture AWS Business Group, is heading up the Accenture Grand Prix. Making sure their employees are trained with the right skills is crucial to their business of helping other organizations unlock the advantages of ML.

“The skills most relevant are a combination of basic cloud skills as well as programming, including languages such as Python and R, statistics and regression, and data science,” Jensen says. “One of the largest obstacles in training for employees staffed on non-AI or ML projects is the opportunity to apply or grow skills in a setting where they can visualize how data science works. Applying algorithms on paper or reading about them isn’t the same.”

That’s where AWS DeepRacer comes in. It’s a great way for teams to get started in ML training, see it come to life, and enable team building. AWS DeepRacer makes the experience of learning fun and accessible.

“One of our team members mentioned that before getting hands-on with DeepRacer, she didn’t have any background in ML,” Jensen says. “The console, models, and training module for AWS DeepRacer made it easy to visualize the steps and understand how the model was being trained in the background without getting too deep into the complicated mathematics. With the added bonus of having the physical car, she was able to actually see in real time the changes, failures, and successes of the model.”

Jensen also sees the added head-to-bot format as a key new feature to elevate the AWS DeepRacer competition experience.

“In our global competition last year, it quickly became apparent that the competition between the locations was really the driving force behind the engagement,” Jensen says. “People wanted their office location to be on the board. This will bring that level of competition to the individual races and get people enthusiastic.”

Starting your own race

Whether or not you have competed in races before, creating and hosting a community race may be what you’re looking for to get you started with AWS DeepRacer and ML. Anyone can start a community race for free and invite participants to join.

With community races, you can select your own track, race date, time, and who you want to invite to participate. Hosting your own race provides an opportunity for you to build your own community and provide team-building events for friends and work colleagues. Community races are another exciting way AWS DeepRacer provides an opportunity for you to compete, meet fellow enthusiasts, and get started with ML!

In this section, we walk you through setting up your own community race. All you need to do is sign up for an AWS account (if you don’t already have one) and go to the AWS DeepRacer console.

  1. On the AWS DeepRacer console, choose Community races.
  2. Choose Create a race.
  3. For Choose race type, select the type of race you want. For this post, we select Time Trial.
  4. For Name of the racing event, enter a name for your race.
  5. For Race dates, enter the start and end dates for your race.

In the Race customization section, you can optionally customize your race details with track and evaluation criteria.

  1. For Competition tracks, select your track. For this post, we select Cumulo Turnpike.
  2. Customize the remaining race track options as desired.
  3. Choose Next.

  1. Review your race settings and choose Submit.

An invitation page and link is generated for you to copy and send out to your friends and colleagues you want to invite to compete in your race.

Now that the race is created, you’re ready to host your own event. Make sure that everyone you invited takes the proper training to build, train, and evaluate their model before the race. When everyone is ready, you’re all set to start racing with your friends!

Who can host an event?

Community races are hosted by all kinds of people and groups, from large companies like Accenture to ML enthusiasts who want to test their skills.

Juv Chan, a community hero for AWS DeepRacer, recently hosted his own event. “I was the main organizer for the AWS DeepRacer Beginner Challenge virtual community race, which started on April 3, 2020, and ended May 31, 2020,” Chan says. “It was the first community race that was organized exclusively for the DeepRacer beginner community globally.”

After Chan decided he wanted to get more beginner-level developers involved in racing and learning ML, he set out to create his own event through the AWS DeepRacer console.

“My first experience on setting up a new community race in the AWS DeepRacer console was easy, fast, and straightforward” Chan says. “I was able to create my first community race in less than 3 minutes when I had all the necessary requirements and details to create the race. I would recommend new users who want to create a new community race to create a mock race in advance to get familiar with all the required details and limitations. It’s possible to edit race details after creating the event too.”

After you set up the race, you need to invite other developers to create an account, train models, and compete in your race. Chan worked with AWS and the AWS ML community to convince racers to join the fun.

“Getting beginner racers to participate was my next challenge,” Chan says. “I worked with AWS and AWS Machine Learning Community Heroes to create a community race event landing page and step-by-step race guide blog post on how to get started and participate the race. I have promoted the events through various AWS, autonomous driving, reinforcement learning, and relevant AI user groups and social media channels in different regions globally. I also created a survey to get feedback from the communities.”

Overall, Chan had a great experience hosting the race. For more information about his experiences and best-kept secrets, see Train a Viable Model in 45 minutes for AWS DeepRacer Beginner Challenge Virtual Community Race 2020.

Join the race to win glory and prizes!

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to compete against your fellow racers right now! If you think you’re ready to create your own community race and invite fellow racers to create a model and compete, it’s easy to get started.

If you’re new to AWS DeepRacer but still want to compete, you can create your own model on the console and submit it compete in the AWS DeepRacer Virtual Circuit, where you can compete in time trial, object avoidance, and head-to-head racing formats. Hundreds of developers have extended their ML journey by competing in the Virtual Circuit races in 2020.

For more information about an AWS DeepRacer competition from earlier in the year, check out the AWS DeepRacer League F1 ProAm event. You can also learn more about AWS DeepRacer in upcoming AWS Summit Online events. Sign in to the AWS DeepRacer console now to learn more, start your ML journey, and get rolling with AWS DeepRacer!

About the Author

Dan McCorriston is a Senior Product Marketing Manager for AWS Machine Learning. He is passionate about technology, collaborating with developers, and creating new methods of expanding technology education. Out of the office he likes to hike, cook and spend time with his family.