Formula E to feature autonomous car racing

Kinetik announcement Maria Ramos

News emerged today that the all-electric motorsport series Formula E will launch a driverless car racing concept as a support category.

The new concept is called Roborace; the first race is planned for the 2016-17 season. Ten teams will field two driverless cars each in races lasting an hour each.

The revelations sprang first from a press conference this morning in London with Formula E’s chief Alejandro Agag and technology investment business Kinetik. The full press release is below.

Formula E and Kinetik today announced a partnership with the intention to launch a global race series for driverless electric cars. This new championship called ‘ROBORACE’ will provide a competitive platform for the autonomous driving solutions that are now being developed by many large industrial automotive and technology players as well as top tech universities.

The plan is for ROBORACE to form part of the support package of the FIA Formula E Championship, with the first race intended to take place during the 2016-2017 season. ROBORACE is aimed to take place prior to each Formula E race, using the same circuits in major cities across the world. Ten teams, each with two driverless cars, will compete in one-hour races over the full championship season. All the teams will have the same cars however will compete using real-time computing algorithms and AI technologies.

Denis Sverdlov, founder of Kinetik and ROBORACE, said: “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. ROBORACE is a celebration of revolutionary technology and innovation that humanity has achieved in that area so far. It’s a global platform to show that robotic technologies and AI can co-exist with us in real life. Thus, anyone who is at the edge of this transformation now has a platform to show the advantages of their driverless solutions and this shall push the development of the technology.”

The mission of ROBORACE is to demonstrate that the future of automotive and information technology is already here and can even work in extreme conditions. ROBORACE believes that there is a lot of independent talents in the world that might contribute to this initiative. That is why one of the race teams will be organised as a crowd-sourced community team open for enthusiastic software and technology experts all over the world.

Further support for both Formula E and ROBORACE shall come from Charge, an automotive start-up founded by Kinetik that develops revolutionary range-extended electric powertrains for commercial vehicles. Charge will become Official Truck Partner of the FIA Formula E Championship and will provide electric trucks for the drivers’ parade, towing trucks for emergency recovery of the racing cars and shuttles for transportation of guests and visitors of the championship around the eVillage.

Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E, said: “We are very excited to be partnering with Kinetik on what is surely one of the most cutting-edge sporting events in history. ROBORACE is an open challenge to the most innovative scientific and technology-focused companies in the world. 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.”

Image courtesy of Maria Ramos.

3 Comments

  • Holly WN says:

    Excellent!
    Not sure if the fans will enjoy it, a big part of exciting motorsport for me is supporting drivers. Obviously questions over how overtakes can occur are bound to come up…
    But I work in race simulation and we are all very excited about this, from an engineering and technology point of view. Will be excited to see if this actually goes ahead!

    • Ross Ringham says:

      Agreed on personalities but as a support race, a technical challenge and a useful proving ground for big name manufacturers, this could be invaluable! Definitely a big thumbs up from us tech geeks too!

  • Hamish says:

    I think this could be very entertaining. 20 high speed driverless cars with different AI algorithms, what could possibly go wrong? No team will be able to assume that an opponents car will react like theirs, so the cars will need to be able to react very quickly to the unexpected. Chaos might ensure in the early races. This of course is the point, the teams will need to learn quickly how to make the cars safe in extreme conditions. If they can manage this they will prove to the world that everyday driverless cars are safe.

    Bring it on!l

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