With testing underway for the hotly-anticipated 2017 F1 season, you could be forgiven for forgetting about Roborace, the self-driving race series supporting Formula E. After a long gestation period, the as-yet unproven competition has finally revealed the car that teams will be programming, and it looks absolutely wild.
Designed by Daniel Simon, the automotive futurist behind the light cycles in Tron Legacy, the Robocar is a seriously sophisticated beast. Hidden within its dog-bone-shaped body are four 300-kW (402 hp) electric motors, enough to propel the carbon fiber-heavy (and therefore light) body to over 320 km/h (199 mph). It weighs just 975 kg (2,150 lb) and measures up at 4.8 meters (15.7 ft) long and 2 meters (6.6 ft) wide.
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With no driver behind the wheel, there are plenty of sensors around the cars to stop them (hopefully) from bashing into each other. There are five LiDar, two radar, 18 ultrasonic and two optical speed sensors on the outside of the car, along with six cameras and a GNSS module. The whole array is powered by a Nvidia Drive PX2 brain, capable of dealing with up to 24 trillion AI operations every second. Each team will program the car with its own algorithm, making software the crucial differentiator in Roboraces.
Michelin will supply the tires for the car, using the sport as a test bed for its own next-generation rubber. The tires used on the Robocar will eventually find their way to the street, as the company looks to use racing experience to improve its consumer products.
"This is a huge moment for Roborace as we share the Robocar with the world and take
another big step in advancing driverless electric technology," says Denis Sverdlov, Roborace
CEO. "I am so proud of the entire team
and our partners and particularly the work Daniel has done creating this beautiful machine. It
was very important for us that we created an emotional connection to driverless cars and
bring humans and robots closer together to define our future."
Roborace will be on show in Mexico City on April 1, but that won't be the first time the self-driving racers have taken to the track. Just last month, two DevBots took to the streets of Buenos Aires. A hard collision with the wall means one of the cars didn't make it back from the outing, but the test did prove driverless race cars are no longer a pipe dream.
One of the cars can be seen in the video below.