By on November 30, 2015

Formula E Roborace Logo

FIA’s Formula E first brought its electrified take on open-wheel racing in 2014. Come 2016, the series will bring autonomous racing to the party, as well.

Which begs the question: Is it still racing if there are no drivers in the cars?

Through a partnership with technology investment company Kinetik, Formula E’s 2016-17 season will do away with the driver entirely in a new support series dubbed ROBORACE. Ten teams will field two autonomous cars each, competing on the same circuits as the main Formula E series in one-hour races throughout the entirety of the championship season. The cars will be identical through and through, with “real-time computing algorithms and AI technologies” making the difference between taking the checkered flag first or last.

Per Kinetik founder Denis Sverdlov, “ROBORACE is a celebration of revolutionary technology and innovation that humanity has achieved” in autonomous driving and electric vehicles to date, and is meant to demonstrate how autonomous technology can co-exist with humanity. Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag adds the new series will be “an open challenge to the most innovative scientific and technology-focused companies in the world,” providing a platform for said companies to show the world what they can do.

More information on which programmers will be competing and what technologies will be used is set to come early in 2016.

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20 Comments on “ROBORACE Introducing Autonomous Auto Racing For 2016-17 Season...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    All your race are belong to us.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Who is going to watch this?

  • avatar
    RS

    Will it have less passing than Formula 1? Is that possible?

  • avatar
    gordoncool

    welcome to the future with robot racing, VR and hover boards

  • avatar
    Fred

    How many years ago did they ban controlling cars from the pits?

  • avatar
    rpn453

    This will be interesting for a number of reasons. There are already autonomous cars that can drive slowly – by professional driver standards – around a track. But how will they react to the other cars in competition? Will it be a demolition derby or a bunch of cautious elderly drivers? When will the bots become as fast as professional drivers? Will they ever be faster? It seems inevitable, but not for quite a few years. Once they’re competitive, they could even have the autonomous cars racing against human drivers.

    This is the beginning of another Deep Blue vs. Kasparov, but on a way higher level.

    Whether it holds my interest for long will depend on how aggressively the cars race and how quickly they develop.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Time trialing around a track, autonomous cars (or, at least autonomous RCs compared to radio controlled, human steered ones) can already be made to go quite fast. The real challenge, is, as you pointed out, intercar relations. With every car mechanically the same (I’m assuming including sensors/accelerometers etc…) , I wouldn’t be surprised if this series turns out just like the human piloted F1: A race primarily around the rule book.

      I have to admit, I find this much more interesting than the people race. Uber may just have to put up with paying licenses for the right to use the “best” drivers in the future…..

  • avatar
    RHD

    My guess is it will look like an arcade video game screen when no one puts in any quarters.
    Now, if one of the cars randomly drops an oil slick on the track, it might be entertaining.

  • avatar
    wmba

    What a wonderful day out for the car racing enthusiast. Excitement fills the air. Ticket prices are a bargain at a mere $99 per human including a free falafel, your choice of filling.

    First one gets to watch autonomous cars filled with “technology” silently battle each other in a tense fight with barely a shrieking tire to be heard. The real action is in the pits where teams at picnic tables stare at laptops while tweaking program parameters with dancing fingers for that ultimate edge. Finally one car takes the electronic checkered flag, this week’s roboflag made by Timmy Smith age 14, a rising star in the autonomous flag waving business. Alas, the mechanism breaks, and the fixture falls over, the flag spasmodically flinging gravel as it flops around. Everyone applauds – it is the most dramatic thing they have witnessed so far this day.

    After this extravaganza, actual organized organic blobs of protein and DNA pilot silent electric cars in the frenzied but silent Formula E race, but nobody notices. They’re all having an old-fashioned snooze following their picnic lunches and beer.

    As the winner is interviewed over a PA system no better than the one at the local stock car track Anytown USA in 1958, rendering his breathless words unintelligible, the crowd is already filing out.

    And a great time was had by all.

  • avatar
    mcs

    All they have to do is add some battle-bots style violence to the race and it will be a huge hit.

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      The battlebot violence may end up being a byproduct of the coding, thereby eliminating the need for special modifications to the hardware.

      My question is how long will it be before they discover that there are team entries programmed so as to operate like a roller derby team: some derail, destroy or box in competitors, while their teammates zoom by to the finish line.

      Imagine demolition derbies with robocars.

      I guess TTAC decided that you were qualified to write about this even though you have had limited driving experience, Cameron, since there will be limited driving involved in this racing series. (Zero driving to be precise. Just an orchestrated highspeed bumper to bumper traffic jam, is my guess.)

      I wonder if SW vendors will compete for inclusion in racecars? With legends on their sides such as “database powered by Oracle”, “courses tracked by Garmin”, “Algorithms by SAS”, etc. alongside the more traditional automotive and consumer product endorsements.

      Though this will not so much be Kasparov vs. Deep Blue, as it will be Deep Blue vs. other AI software.

      Should be as exciting as watching a large system compilation.

  • avatar
    Syke

    I can see it being interesting for the first season, if only for the novelty value. First off, are we talking full scale cars (assuming electric powered, are we talking the size of Formula E cars), or some kind of 3/4, 5/8, 1/2 scale models.

    Secondly, the possibilities of cheating in this form of “racing” will be fascinating. The first generation cars will invariably look like some form of open wheel racer. Then the revisions start: How long will it take before a race car doesn’t look like anything recognizable from the stands as a race car? Without having to fit a driver or care for his welfare, lots of things are possible.

    Remote control. Which means the cars can be hacked. First, by competing teams and their “drivers”. Secondly, from the stands due to fans who want something more interesting than forty laps around the track. What a fun weekend for an Anonymous field trip!

  • avatar
    outback_ute

    I agree that it will be interesting to see how the wheel-to-wheel aspect goes, it is a pretty formidable challenge technically. I presume that they have found a way to preclude simple remote control driving.

    Actually the Formula E races are not that bad from an entertainment perspective because the cars are closely matched (the no. 2 reason that spoils F1, after aero spoiling overtaking), the drivers are putting it on the line more often compared to a lot of more risk-averse series, and there is still some strategy involved with speed vs battery usage.


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