INDIANAPOLIS — Never in his wildest dreams would Carl Fisher have envisioned the day the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would see a drone deliver the checkered flag to a robotic dog, who would wave it while driverless cars sped around the Racing Capital of the World at times more than 150 mph.

In Fisher’s day, rear-view mirrors were cutting-edge technology, IMS was paved entirely by bricks and the inaugural Indianapolis 500 winner averaged speeds just a tick under 75 mph over nearly seven hours. And yet, Fisher, James Allison, Arthur Newby and Frank Wheeler wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

They purchased over 300 acres to construct what would become the world’s most famous racetrack nearly 113 years ago in the hopes that IMS would be used for decades on end as the testing and proving ground for the latest automotive technology.

Saturday, IMS was the world’s stage for such a task. The Indy Autonomous Challenge – 21 universities from around the world, organized into nine teams – tested the feasibility and reliability of autonomous driving technology built into the bodies of Indy Lights cars.

Members of TUM Autonomous Motorsport celebrate after winning Saturday's Indy Autonomous Challenge at IMS.

Four months ago, robot cars could hardly maintain speeds of 30 mph while circling Lucas Oil Raceway – even with a chase car able to take some control of the racecar. Teams struggled to have one car stop in the proper spot in the pits and allow the next car to exit the pits in under 15 minutes. What had been billed in its introduction two years ago as a traditional race with a packed track, with cars hitting speeds nearing 200 mph over 20 laps to decide a winner, was seriously in danger of being a complete flop.

By Tara