Self-driving cars are not just for Google anymore. The Formula E electric motor racing series is now adding a new race to its lineup which will take place right before the human-driven race goes off. The races between the autonomous cars will launch in the 2016-2017 race season and will make up a championship circuit known as ROBORACE.
The robo-cars will not have the same specifications as the human-driven cars. And, organizers excitedly report that since the robo-cars are free from the weight of safety hardware, the cars could have a race endurance of over an hour. That is about twice as long as last year’s human-driven Formula E cars.
What the robo-cars gain in endurance, however, they lose in human brain decision-making power. Yet, Formula E mechanics and engineers attribute a lot of the program’s successes and failures to specific power-management algorithms. And, since human drivers will no longer be in the picture and all teams will use the same hardware, the wins and losses will be determined by the differences in each team’s driving algorithms. Yes, algorithms rather than mental acumen and instinct will dominate ROBORACE.
The London-based venture capital firm, Kinetik, is funding ROBORACE. The firm predicts that the autonomous cars will top 186 miles per hour – which is a little higher than the speeds currently achieved by Formula E cars. Kinetik is known for its recent investment in a British company that designs EV technology for buses and trucks.
Unlike the human-driven cars of Formula E, which organizers developed and designed to replicate the older generations of gasoline-powered racing cars, these robo-cars may have more efficient and exotic aerodynamics.
Race organizers will also invite a “community” team of hardware and software buffs to compete.
Other than some general information, Formula E organizers released few specific, technical details about the upcoming race.
As of yet, there is no word as to whether – and when – the series will eventually conduct a face-off between top human and robot drivers.