While testing for the eagerly awaited 2017 Formula 1 continues, it is easy to forget about Roborace, the autonomous driving race series that is playing a supportive role to Formula E. After a long period of development, the nascent competition has finally made public the car that the teams will be using, and it looks positively wild.
Created by Daniel Simon, the automobile futurist responsible for the light cycles in the video games known as the Tron legacy, the Robocar is an extremely high-tech beast. Concealed within its body, which is shaped like a dog-bone, are four electric motors that produce 402 horse power (300 kW).This is sufficient power to drive the light carbon body to over 199 miles per hour (or 320 kilometers per hour).Its weight is only 2,150 pounds (975 kilograms) and it measures 15.7 feet (4.8 meters) long and 6.6 feet (2 meters) wide.
Because they are driverless, there are lots of sensors all around the cars to prevent them from colliding with each other. There are eighteen ultrasonic, two optical speed, five LiDar and two radar sensors on the outside areas of the car, as well as a GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) module and six cameras. The brain of the entire system is a Nvidia Drive PX2 computer, able to process up to twenty-four trillion Artificial Intelligence (or AI) operations per second.The computer is able to juggle input from radar, various sensors and cameras and assist the car to make sense of its surrounding environment, in much the same way that humans can. Its architecture is scalable which means it can match what the car requires and also allow costs to be controlled.Each of the teams will program the car using its own specific algorithm. The effect of this is that software will become the critical differentiator during Roboraces.
The tires of the car will be supplied by Michelin, which will use the sporting event as a testing ground for its next generation tires. The tires that will be used for the Robocar will ultimately end up on the street since the company intends to use the racing experience to enhance its consumer products.
According to Roborace CEO, Denis Sverdlov, this is a significant moment for the company as it shares the Robocar with the whole world and it makes another huge step in advancing the autonomous car electric technology. He adds that he feels so proud of the whole team and their partners, and especially the efforts of Daniel in developing the beautiful machine. Sverdlov concludes by noting that it was important for the company to create an emotional connection to autonomous cars and bring robots and humans closer together in order to define the future.
Roborace will be staged in Mexico City on 1st April, but that will not be the first time that the driverless racers have appeared on the track. Two DevBots raced on the streets of Buenos Aires only last month. One of the cars collided hard with the wall which means it never made it back from the race. However, the test proved that self-driving cars are a reality, not a pipedream anymore.