The story of Duckietown

The Duckietown project was conceived in 2016 as a graduate class at MIT. A group of over 15 Postdocs and 5 professors were involved in the initial development.

The goal was to build a platform that was small-scale and cute yet still preserved the real scientific challenges inherent in a full-scale real autonomous robot platform.


Here is the very first lecture for Duckietown in 2016:

The first demo

The first class had 24 students and culminated with a year-end demo in a full sized hockey rink. There were over 3000 visitors.

Going global

After the 2016 class, many of the key organizers left MIT for other opportunities.

In the meantime, all of the pieces of the experience (the slides, the demos, the platform, the software) were made openly available and other institutions began to take interest.

The platform has since been used at several universities around the globe, including NCTU in Taiwan, Tsinghua in China, and RPI in the United States among many others.

The joint class of 2017

In the Fall of 2017, Liam Paull (Montréal), Andrea Censi (ETHZ), Matthew Walter (TTIC) and Hsueh-Cheng Wang (NCTU) decided to teach an official coordinated edition of the class. In this version, students from classes at ETH Zürich, Université de Montréal, and TTI Chicago and NCTU worked collaboratively in groups that spanned continents.

The result was a coordinated  global demo that showcased the students’ achievements.

Present and Future

The 2018 Kickstarter

We wanted to expand the use of Duckietown dramatically.

To achieve this, we needed to make the Duckietown platform cheaper, easier to obtain and able to provide more learning experiences and opportunities for performing cutting edge research.

To achieve this objective we launched a successful kickstarter campaign and we now have an easier way for people to acquire the hardware.

The AI Driving Olympics

The Duckietown Foundation debuted the AI Driving Olympics (AI-DO), a competition focused on AI for self-driving cars, in December 2018 at the premiere machine learning conference: Neural Information Processing Systems conference (NeurIPS) in Montreal. It was the first competition to ever take place at a machine learning conference with real robots.

AI-DO2 will be held at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in May 2019.

What’s next?

The Duckietown Project is an ever-evolving organism. We are continually looking for ways to improve and accomplish our mission. We are always looking for motivated individuals who want to help us grow. If you use Duckietown for teaching or research and want to contribute please get in touch.