Formula E

New Roborace championship for driver-less cars to support Formula E

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    From next season the Formula E support bill will feature a new championship for driver-less cars called Roborace.

    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.

    So would you watch a race with empty cars? I must admit I’m intrigued by the idea but I can’t imagine it being very exciting to watch…

    Iestyn Davies

    It actually sounds to me a lot like this forum’s very own Formula Virtual..

    I’d definitely watch Roborace (they need a better name.. Formula AI?!) at least once to see how it works! Will they be electric cars? Fast? Overtake? Collide? etc.


    I don’t really think that this will remain a sport ‘to watch’. The better the robots will be, the less mistakes they make and the more boring the race will become.

    For society, this class may well be very relevant, now with the Google-car and all.


    I think this could be fascinating. It’s a sport for software engineers, which probably doesn’t sound exciting but is extremely relevant.

    People are probably thinking of some computer games where the AI drivers just drive around the track like they are on rails, following the perfect racing line at all times and mostly staying in single file. But this is a limitation of one computer simulating a number of drivers simultaneously – programmers take short cuts and make compromises. It’s also a consequence of the almost “perfect” nature of simulated tracks, few bumps and imperfections and conditions being the same lap after lap.

    In reality, you’ll have one computer per car. It may be programmed with the optimum racing line, but it will also need to make constant split-second decisions on all sorts of variables. Even with a qualifying lap, it wouldn’t be a case of just sending it off to do a perfect lap – to get the very fastest time it will need to constantly assess the condition and temperature of the tires, the track and the motor.

    In the race, there could be some fascinating decisions to made on offensive and defensive driving. How do you programme a computer to leave the “fastest” racing line to force another car to leave its own optimum line and gain an advantage, and how would you programme the defending car to respond? How much risk would you allow your model driver to take? And then there’s the efficiency considerations too.

    I can’t wait to see how it turns out. I just hope they give them some decent cars to race, ideally the current generation FE cars.

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