Automotive

Roborace previews its autonomous, driverless race car

Roborace previews its autonomo...
Roborace reveals its driverless race car concept
Roborace reveals its driverless race car concept
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The Robocar was built with a focus on aerodynamics and aesthetics
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The Robocar was built with a focus on aerodynamics and aesthetics
Roborace reveals its driverless race car concept
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Roborace reveals its driverless race car concept

Believe it or not, autonomous race cars will soon be battling it out on the track. As we reported last year, plans are for the Roborace autonomous racing series to run in conjunction with Formula E, starting in the 2016-17 season. Last week, newly-appointed design chief Daniel Simon, who has a diverse background designing concept cars for both global automakers and Hollywood, released the first look at the driverless Roborace car.

The lack of a need for a driver's cockpit has dropped barriers and opened up design freedom, allowing Simon and his team to follow aerodynamics even more closely than on the typical race car. The result, dubbed the Robocar, looks like a streamliner-style fuselage with four massive nostril-fenders optimizing downforce. Those large intakes allow air to flow straight through the body work over top the open floor.

"It was important to us that we generate substantial downforce without unnecessary parts cluttering the car to maintain a clean and iconic look," Simon explains. "This is largely made possible by using the floor as the main aerodynamic device and we are currently developing active body parts that are more organic and seamless than solutions today."

Simon has perhaps the perfect blend of fantasy and reality automotive design experience for the task of creating a new genre of race car. After obtaining a degree in automotive design, he spent several years at Volkswagen working on concept cars and then transitioned into a position at Bugatti, where he worked on Veyron special editions and conceptual Veyron successors. After that, Simon went Hollywood, designing fictional vehicles for feature films, including the iconic Tron Light Cycle in Tron: Legacy. He's also styled F1 racing liveries and done the design work on the Lotus C-01 motorcycle. So he's worked around some of the world's most powerful cars and spent plenty of time thinking completely outside of conventional reality.

The Robocar was built with a focus on aerodynamics and aesthetics
The Robocar was built with a focus on aerodynamics and aesthetics

"We're living in a time where the once-separated worlds of the automobile and artificial intelligence collide with unstoppable force," says Simon. "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. 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."

Similar to how Formula E started with each team competing in the same Spark-Renault SRT_01E, Roborace will be a single-model race with every team running the Robocar. The competitive aspect will come from each team tweaking the software algorithms and AI technologies to gain the advantage on the track.

In announcing the new series last November, Roborace and Kinetik explained that 10 teams, each with two cars, will run the hour-long races during the course of the Formula E championship season. Roborace events will be held prior to the Formula E races on the same circuits in cities around the globe.

The Robocar is still a conceptual work in progress and no specs were released with the first images. We do know that it will feature an electric powertrain and connected platform.

"I passionately believe that the future of cars is about software – driverless, electric and connected – and Roborace will help to make that a reality," says Roborace CEO Denis Sverdlov. "It's gaming, motorsport, technology and entertainment all rolled into one."

Source: Roborace

8 comments
Daishi
I really like this concept. I'm not sure how popular watching it would be but without needing to make room and safety precautions for a human driver it completely opens up the design. Another interesting design I would like to see is a super flat and low to the ground square. Mostly like the "skateboard" chassis in a Tesla only without the rest of the car. Basically like a derby car only with accommodations made for aerodynamics and downforce http://i.imgur.com/lvZ1Q3P.jpg It should be possible to achieve an extremely low center of gravity like below the axle low. Getting a center of gravity below the axle could significantly change cornering.
owlbeyou
Cool design. I see that there are no open wheels to lock up with other cars, and the driver has been replaced with antennas, but if these cars were pure AI, would people get as excited about seeing them on the track? Like fancy slot cars racing about, it can reach a point where spectacular crashes are desirable and expected, because racing with a complex remote control system can have its limits? Without the soul of the human touch, will this become just a mechanized so what? Will they be as responsive as a real driver? Maybe. Watching robots thrashing each other around a circuit could be like a video game in 3D. These driverless races can be done at night with cars and tracks that have elaborate illumination, doing pit stops and tire changes using robots, and the winner will be a cyborg who will raise the trophy in the air and spray the audience with champagne. Might as well go robotic all the way!
VincentWolf
I would prefer a slot car style body and chassis. Extremely lot to ground with huge down force such that it handles far quicker through the corners than any human driven race car. Not even a close contest if done right the robo racer would run circles around any human racer ever made. They would in fact have to limit the power of the robo racers to make a fair race!
Mel Tisdale
I imagine that the autonomous road car brigade would gain a lot about how to retain control in slippery conditions. For a start, it is rather important that after a spin, these cars set off the right way. To do that they need to retain a sense of which way they finish up. Mind you, it might make the racing more exciting if they do end up as "opposite direction traffic". (The most alarming message I have ever seen on a motorway information board!)
tj1
Make make an interesting challenge ?Are these meant to race on the tight circuits of FE ?,Where would they get much downforce at such low speeds?Though aesthetically pleasing,I have a question about aero as having exposed suspension control arms etc would cause a lot of turbulence inside these tunnels,perhaps going the way of WEC LMP1 cars with body covering over individual suspension components might be better.Is there a aero regulation set or is it open to designers?
mommus
cool design but the idea of watching robotic cars racing round and around is about as depressing a sport as I can imagine. Formula 1 is dull enough, but at least it still involves an element of human endeavour.
fb36
Just wait until their organization creates a huge set of rules that forces all cars in the race to be exactly the same. No more innovation. Just a parade of identical cars.
AnesuNyadzayo
This is exciting, I can't believe it's happening now. This is a classic demonstration of what algorithms and A.I. can do in the real world. Humans beings are expanding their control over machines. We are beginning to be just like the creator. I am sure he is excited.