A driverless electric race car hardly fits with evo’s mantra ‘The thrill of driving’, but we certainly wouldn’t disagree with the statement that racing improves the breed. It’s the latter statement that Roborace, the maker of the world’s first driverless race car, is following to help develop the future of automous driving.
Roborace has revealed its new car, the Robocar at this year’s Mobile World Congress. The new car will race against other autonomous Robocars in a series that has been created as a platform for software engineers and suppliers to develop software, technology and materials that will filter down into driverless road cars.
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The car itself, designed by Daniel Simon who has previously designed futuristic looking cars for sci-fi films like Tron Legacy and Oblivion, is 4.8 metres long, 2 metres wide and weighs 975kg. The body is made from carbonfibre and it houses four 300kW (402bhp) engines, one for each wheel. This will help the Robocar reach a top speed of over 198mph.
The Robocar’s ability to be able to drive and race autonomously is made possible by its awareness of the environment that it’s in. The Robocar has five lidar sensors that detect distance using lasers, two radars, 18 ultrasonic sensors, two optical speed sensors, six AI cameras and a global satellite position system. The car’s on-board computer is able to process the data from the detection and positioning equipment up to 24 trillion calculations per second.
The software then uses this vast amount of information to plot the car’s best and most efficient trajectory around a track. This is where the racing element comes in; every team will develop their own driverless software to push the car to its limits.
Michelin will supply tyres for the Roborace series as it does in the Formula E series, the Robocar will use road legal tyres so there is a direct correlation with the information obtained during the races and the tyres eventually fitted to driverless road cars.
A collection of development cars, known as Devbots, have already taken to the track in a support race for the Buenos Aires round of the Formula E championship. Sadly, one of the cars crashed while trying to perform a manoeuvre on the circuit, but it wasn’t too badly damaged. The actual Robocars won’t take to the track until later this year and the Devbots will continue to perform demonstrations until then.