Are we ready for Formula E's driverless Roborace?

Roborace will take drivers out of motorsports next year by bringing autonomous electric vehicles to the track as a support series for the FIA Formula E Championship's 2016-2017 season. The driverless racecars will attempt to push the development of the cutting-edge tech through competition, and spectators will be able to check them out in cities around the world.

All of these electric racecars will be mechanically identical, but the squads will compete with their own algorithms and artificial intelligence. The one-hour races will run before the main event from Formula E, and the organizers will try to gather 10 teams to field two driverless vehicles each for the inaugural season. One of these crews will be a crowd-sourced effort from a community of experts.

"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," series founder Denis Sverdlov said in the announcement.

The organizers promise more details about the technology in these racers early next year, but the series could be fascinating to watch because major automakers have already shown autonomous vehicles can perform on the track. For example, Audi claimed that its autonomous TTS beat an amateur racer around Thunderhill, and BMW's Track Trainer lapped Laguna Seca without driver intervention. Yamaha has even started on similar tech for motorcycles.
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Formula E & Kinetik announce driverless support series
UK|27 NOV 15

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."

Further details and announcements about the teams and technologies to be used will be made early next year.

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