Written by Staff Writer
Despite decades of research on driverless technology, so far very few examples of self-driving vehicles have been put on public roads.
But that could be about to change, with Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk announcing the creation of a new competition as a platform for driverless “so-called “Roborace”.
In the current Formula E racing series, six electric racing cars are involved in a series of races, with teams racing in strict classifications such as GT3 and GT4.
Fast-forward to 2020 and the format will likely take on a whole new shape, as F1 will be transformed into a test bed for developments in self-driving cars.
Currently, teams in the top echelon of racing have their own self-driving race cars; these are then used on the grid to replicate real-world driving. In addition, each driver takes control of an autonomous race car for part of the race, replicating the actual race distance.
However, as written about in the Mail , the motorsport governing body, the FIA, has chosen to drop this element of automated racing altogether, and has instead recognized an existing sport called “Roborace”, in which teams will use their own self-driving cars for the entirety of a Grand Prix.
According to the Mail, Roborace has been created by Chinese start-up NIO and Baidu, the Chinese search engine giant, who have committed $200 million to the project.
The announcement was made during last month’s Frankfurt motor show, where the head of the FIA’s technical department, Jonathan Corner, introduced the concept.
“What this project represents for the FIA is that we believe that the future of motorsport is going to be fully driverless,” Corner said.
“As a concept, what I like about it is that I think it captures a lot of the same values we’ve been promoting in Formula E with the idea of showcasing the technology that’s being created in Formula E but to include public consumption as well.
“My hope would be that at some point in the future … Formula E drivers would be able to give direction and assistance to the Roborace self-driving car in real-world conditions.”
A racer smashes off a wheel in an exhibition qualifying round of the Formula E Championship in London on November 1, 2016. AFP PHOTO / Carl Court (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)
With race teams from China, Germany, France, Britain and Japan confirmed to have signed up, the first Roborace race will be held at the Noumea International Circuit in New Caledonia in February of next year.
The race will also allow race teams to gain valuable experience in real-world conditions, particularly to test the cars and their software before a planned global competition at the Shanghai Grand Prix in July.
Racing fans can expect to be able to watch the first Roborace event on YouTube.