Mad Max Self Driving Challenge

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Mad Max Self Driving Competition

Defcon 26 Car Hacking Village August 9-12, 2018. This year our village space will be at the Flamingo.

Rule revision: 0.2


The 2018 Car Hacking Village at Defcon will have 2 different self-driving car competitions. One relies on software and CAN bus hacks and the other on physical custom self-driving builds. These rules define the physical custom self-driving competition.

Each team will need to build their own vehicle. See the Build Rules section for details on rules and restrictions. The vehicles will be placed on a track at Defcon WITH other vehicles. Given the space constraints of the Car Hacking village, there could be multiple events running on the track simultaneously. The goal is to race your opponents to a parking spot and maintain that parking space for 1 full minute.

Competition will use elimination rounds. Your vehicle will be placed with another random vehicle. Winner moves on to the next round.

Competition Rules

About the Teams

You must sign up your team to enter the contest. You do not need to compete in the other CTF challenges in order to compete in this challenge. However, I am sure another team that is competing in the overall CTF for the car hacking village would love to partner with you if you are interested. We have a spot on the signup for to indicate if you are interested in partnering with another team. Not every member of your team will need to physically attend, although we can not guarantee we can provide prizes for non-attendees.

Sign up to compete

Each team can only submit 1 vehicle and must use that vehicle for the full competition. You can bring more than one vehicle and decide before your first race which one you want to use but you must stick with that vehicle until the competition ends.

NOTE: We will have a few bonus races that will not count towards the competition. You will be allowed to race your other vehicles or even your main vehicle in those races if you want.

Pre-Race Rules

Both players start behind the start line, a light will signal the start of the race.

  1. False start penalty. Failure to wait until the light signals the beginning of the race will disqualify you.
  2. Pre-race attack disqualification. Attacking the other player or track before the race starts will disqualify you.
  3. No contestants may enter the track or touch the cars during the race. If a vehicle needs assistance, only a Judge may enter the track. Any violation of this rule will result in disqualification from the competition.
  4. Each race will be bracket style, with the winning team advancing to the next round of competition until only two teams remain, CTF points will be awarded for each round won.

Note: You will have training time with your vehicle before the competition starts to make any last minutes changes and adjustments.

Starting the race

  1. Before the competition begins, the race bracket and schedule will be posted publicly in the Car Hacking Village
  2. It is the responsibility of each team to report to the track at their assigned time with a car that is ready to race. If your team is not present at the start of the race you will be disqualified.
  3. A judge will supervise vehicle placement on the track to ensure vehicles are properly staged before the race begins.
  4. A starter light will be used to trigger the start of the race. Details of the light are in the track details section.

During the race

  1. Leaving the track will cost 30 seconds for each penalty. If a vehicle is pushed off of the track by another vehicle they still incur this penalty.
  2. The track is designated by cones, knocking over a cone will result in a 30 second penalty. Bumped cones that do not fall over will not incur a penalty, if by magic; or divine intervention a cone is knocked into the air, but lands on it base without falling over, no penalty will be assigned.
  3. Jammed vehicle. A vehicle is considered “Jammed” if it stops due to being trapped, locked up, stuck, or forced off a track into a position it can’t recover. The vehicle can be placed back at the location it was stuck only by a Judge. They will incur an additional 30 second penalty plus whatever time it takes to reposition the vehicle back on the track.
  4. 3 Strike rule. A vehicle can become jammed and placed back on the track up to 3 times before being disqualified.


  1. Parked - In order to consider a vehicle parked, it must have at least ¾ of its body within the parking zone. A counter will start when the vehicle is parked. This counter is added to the vehicles’ total parked time. Once a vehicle reaches 1 minute of parked time the competition ends. The parked vehicle gets a bonus of -1 minute off their total time for achieving the goal.
  2. A vehicle may actively attack or push a vehicle out of its parked location.
  3. A Judge determines and controls the counter for how long each vehicle has been in the parked location.

Race ends

The race ends when:

  1. One vehicle has been parked for one uninterrupted minute
  2. Both cars are disqualified
  3. The max race time countdown timer reaches 0. The amount of time is determined by the Judges during the day of the event. For instance, if the countdown timer is set to 5 minutes and neither car parks for 1 minute during that 5 minute countdown the race ends.


  1. The wining car’s score is tallied by the amount of time remaining on the clock plus any incurred penalties
  2. The losing car’s is scored as a full five minutes plus any incurred penalties.
  3. If both cars fail to park before the race ends the total score to determine the winner is determined as follows:
    1. Penalties are calculated for each vehicle
    2. Penalties are added to the total time for the race (example: 5 minutes)


  1. Vehicles with the lowest calculated time wins
  2. In the event of a tie, vehicles will race down a straight path. First one to cross the set finish line will win. If neither cross the finish line, the vehicle that went furthest on the track wins.

Track Rules

The track is designed with 9” cones demarking the borders of the track. The track will use different color cones to represent different aspects of the track.

The outside track edge will be defined with blue cones and white gaffers tape, while the inner edge will use red cones. The start line will be marked with orange cones and black gaffers tape. The parking square is defined with Yellow cones and orange gaffers tape. The lines (tape) is 2” width. There is no center line. The track does not have a set width and do not assume that the track will support two car widths at every segment.

The track may be multiple levels, and may include enclosed sections that are not visible to the operator.

Parking space will be 18x14” in size

Starting light. There will be a visual countdown to indicate the start of each race. You can use visuals to detect the change but there will also be a simultaneous audible GO signal. The specific start/stop signals will be covered in the drivers meeting before the race begins. We will allow for a manual start switch if the vehicle is unable to detect the go but there will be a physical delay if your vehicle can not automatically detect it.

An example track

Sample race track

Build Rules

Vehicles must fit within the following dimensions: 17”x13”x10” A “Box” matching these dimensions will be present at Tech Inspection. If your entire vehicle does not fit inside the “Box” you will not be able to compete. There is no restriction on weight, motor size, or battery count.


You must not use any weapons that could be destructive or harmful to humans, other vehicles, or the track itself. This includes flamethrowers, blades, signal jammers, or tires that could damage the track. Offensive or defensive systems are permitted, as long as they are not intentionally destructive. Suggestions include re-enforced bumpers, streamers to confuse sensors, and any general tomfoolery to make the competition fun. Any car interpreted by the judges as being intentionally destructive will be disqualified from competition. Have fun, don’t be a jerk!

If you are using cameras you should take all precautions necessary to protect bystanders and their privacy. No up skirting, or human targeted recordings will be allowed. Take reasonable precautions to prevent accidental abuses.

The intention of this challenge is to build a car that can, at a minimum perform as a Donkey2

Given the popularity of this project, the suggested cars are getting hard to find. In the spirit of innovation and creativity you may substitute any electric R/C car as the base of your vehicle, as long as it will fit within the “Box” cited above. The DonkeyCar spec calls for guidance via camera, but our race is open to any sensor or imaging technology you can make work. Got a design that involves curb feelers and barometric pressure? Build it! Keep in mind that you will be sharing the track with other vehicles when selecting your platform.

The cars must meet the following minimum requirements:

  1. Driven “autonomously” after training time on the track
    1. In this competition we define autonomously as the car driving by relying solely on the systems and sensors on-board. No human controls are permitted during the race.
  2. Able to navigate elevation changes such as bumps or bridges.
  3. Able to navigate in low, or no-light environments.
  4. Vehicle must be safe to handle, should it need to be picked up by a judge during the competition.
  5. All wiring must be safe and well insulated, we don’t need or want electrical fires, even small ones.
  6. Teams are required to provide all systems and components required to operate their car.

Build suggestions

Battery life should be a minimum of 15 minutes, but this is up to each individual team to calculate and mange. Consider size for both durability and speed, there will be cars at the top end of the “Box” limitations on the track, possibly at the same time as your car. A collision may occur, your car should be sturdy enough to survive several. Tomfoolery is encouraged, as is creativity. These requirements are intentionally unspecific outside of safety requirements to allow creativity and unique designs, IE more Mad Max, less NASCAR.

Read through the “Roll Your Own” document for more thoughts on designing your car at

A note about batteries: Check with the TSA on battery restrictions if you are transporting your car on an airplane.

Tech Inspection

Each team must report to Tech Inspection on Friday afternoon to have their vehicle inspected for adherence to the build and safety rules. This inspection will include a driving demonstration of the vehicle, to ensure that the vehicle can stay on the track and function at safe speeds. Teams that fail the tech inspection will have 2 hours to rectify any issues and submit their vehicle for re-inspection. The specific times for tech inspection will be posted to the @OpenGarages Twitter account at least 24 hours before inspection officially begins.


All rulings by any judge are final. Any tampering with other team’s cars or actions that compromise the safety of humans will result in immediate disqualification and ineligibility for future CHV Mad Max racing events.


Pre planning for this event can be organized through the OpenGarages mailing list. Announcement for team meetups, rule updates etc. will be made through this mailing list. Announcement will also happen via the @OpenGarages Twitter account as well as the @CarHackingVillage account.

Revision History

List of rule changes per revision
Revision Number Changes
0.1 Original PDF Version. Imported here for 0.2
0.2 Added rules on Team creation. Starter light info