Roborace: First design for driverless racing car revealed
Concept vehicle designed by Tron: Legacy's Daniel Simon unveiled ahead of first season
Motorsport fans have been given the first look at what the world of autonomous racing will look like.
Roborace is a new motorsport series set to run alongside the all-electric Formula E championship, with the vital twist being that none of the cars competing would have human drivers.
Now, the first designs of what could be hitting the grid have been unveiled – and they've generated some heady reactions.
Top Gear says the car is a "striking concept" and that "robot racing might not be so bad after all" if the final product turns out to look like this.
One of the main criticisms of Roborace when it was announced last November was that driverless motorsport misses the point, as it removes the human element and heroics of drivers.
Upon seeing the first design, Engadget argues fans could feel as if they're "watching a sci-fi flick", not just because of the technology, but also because "the car contenders will use looks like it belongs in a movie set".
There's good reason for this; the concept car has been designed by Daniel Simon, who is best known for creating the light cycles used in Tron: Legacy.
Simon claims his goal was to produce a design taking full advantage of the lack of a driver, focussing purely on aerodynamics and eye-catching flair to give a top speed of 186mph mated to what's expected to be huge levels of downforce.
The car appears to be fitted with a large array of sensors, while active aerodynamic body parts are also said to be in the pipeline.
The Roborace series is due to start alongside the 2016-17 Formula E season, with ten teams running two cars each at every race on the calendar.
Evo says that despite the initial scepticism towards Formula E, it has delivered exciting racing alongside strong marketing potential – even luring the likes of Jaguar.
"Roborace appears even more so," adds the magazine, highlighting the potential for something exciting, unique, and possibly attractive to carmakers intent on developing self-driving cars.
Roborace: Formula E to stage driverless racing
The organisers of Formula E racing have announced that a series of driverless races will join the circuit as a warm-up for the main event next year.
The Roborace will feature ten teams, each with two autonomous electric cars. Motorsport.com says the series will begin for the 2016/17 season, and will take place two hours before the Formula E races (pictured above).
Speaking to Wired, Denis Serdlov from Kinetik, the company which will make the cars, said we can expect speeds more than 186mph. "In terms of technology we're trying to make them better than humans," he said.
The cars will be identical, and teams will compete to design the most effective software to direct them around the track.
There's no hint as to what the cars may look like, but the lack of drivers will mean that safety features can be dropped, paving the way for more radical design decisions.
There could be other advantages too. "The extra space freed up by removing the driver will allow more batteries to be packed into the Roborace cars, which should eliminate the need for the pit stops Formula E cars currently have to make mid-way through their races," Auto Express reports.
The organisers hope to court the interest of car manufacturers currently developing driverless cars, including Google, as well as existing racing teams.
Formula E is currently in its second season after an inaugural year steeped in doubt as to whether all-electric racing cars would draw in a crowd.
But the action on track has proved popular with motorsport fans, and the technology has been improving rapidly. Now organisers hope that motorsport will provide a similar proving ground for driverless cars.