As we discovered last November, an autonomous car racing series is in the works.
Roborace is a partnership between Kinetik (an investment fund that is backing electric vehicle development) and Formula E, the EV racing series that has now entered its third season. Roborace is going to support Formula E next season (starting in late 2016), using identical machinery—each team will write its own algorithms though. This week, Roborace unveiled the first pictures of the AI-controlled cars that will contest the series.
If you think they look like something out of a sci-fi film, you may be on to something. They’re the work of Daniel Simon, who in addition to working for a time at Bugatti also designed the vehicles in Tron: Legacy and Oblivion.
“My goal was to create a vehicle that takes full advantage of the unusual opportunities of having no driver without ever compromising on beauty. Racing engineers and aerodynamicists have worked with me from the beginning to strike that balance,” Simon said. “The Roborace is as much about competition as it is entertainment. Therefore—and quite unusual in today’s racing world—beauty was very high on our agenda and we work hard to merge the best performance with stunning styling.”
Freed of the need to protect a squishy human occupant, the resulting design does indeed look like the wackier end of the Hot Wheels spectrum. There aren’t any technical details to share yet—and it’s likely that the cars that eventually compete in Roborace may look somewhat different—but expect electric power and plenty of downforce.
Over at Racecar Engineering, Sam Collins has some thoughts about the possible consequences of autonomous racing. Without a human as the rate-limiting factor in the car, truly staggering levels of performance could eventually be unleashed in an AI racing series. But would that still be exciting to us, and what kind of tracks would we need to build to ensure spectator safety in the event of a crash?