Formula Robo: Driverless Cars Get Their Own Racing Series

Formula Robo: Driverless Cars Get Their Own Racing Series

The fact that driverless cars can traverse busy roads and negotiate crowded highways is impressive – some human drivers haven’t mastered it yet! However, you have to remember current driverless cars are limited to relatively slow speed and low stress situations.

What would be more impressive is if they could work out how to overtake a car at not 50 but 150mph or perfectly take a corner at 60 instead of 6.

Next year this is the challenge that will be set to driverless cars. Running alongside the fully-electric racing series Formula E, a new motorsport dubbed ROBORACE will see 20 fully autonomous cars duke it out on the track as a high octane, high silicone preview to the human-driven main show.

“We passionately believe that, in the future, all of the world’s vehicles will be assisted by AI and powered by electricity, thus improving the environment and road safety,” said Denis Sverdlov, the brains behind ROBORACE, Charge R&D and Kinetik. “ROBORACE is a celebration of revolutionary technology and innovation that humanity has achieved in that area so far.” [Source]

Since ROBORACE is about driverless technology and not physical engineering, the 10 competing teams will be provided with identical vehicles. They will, however, be given full rein to develop their own racing software from the ground up. So while some complain that Formula 1’s results are simply a reflection of who has the fastest car, there’s nowhere to hide at ROBORACE.

Loïc Duval finished third, his first podium finish in Formula E.
The new all AI racing series will accompany Formula E.

Since all teams will run identical cars, the fastest driver, or fastest racing software, will be the one and only deciding factor.

“Roborace is an open challenge to the most innovative scientific and technology-focused companies in the world,” said Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E. “It is very exciting to create a platform for them to showcase what they are capable of and I believe there is great potential for us to unearth the next big idea through the unique crowd-sourced contest.” [Source]

Backed by serial innovators including Richard Branson and John Malone, it’s no surprise that Formula E and ROBORACE are pushing the boundaries of motoracing. Already implemented features include the integration of VR tech and 360 degree cameras, which allows spectators to sit ‘inside’ the car and experience the race from the driver’s point of view.

Another more controversial feature is a last lap performance boost based on Twitter activity. Spectators can tweet drivers during the race and whoever generates the most activity gets a short power surge to boost their chances. It’s safe to say that if Formula 1 ever copies their lead, Kimi ‘The Ice Man’ Räikkönen will be at a serious disadvantage.

ROBORACE is set to debut next year and will run one-hour contests ahead of every Formula E race. I don’t know about you, but the team at Dominic Sellar & Co. can’t wait to find out how well the Terminator fares in a single seater racing car.

What do you think about driverless cars? Are they the future of driving or is it another technological fad? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.