Roborace will be a competition with autonomously driving, electrically powered vehicles. The series has been testing their technology and race formats on the same tracks the FIA Formula E Championship uses. It will be the first global championship for autonomous cars. As of September 2017, the official CEO is 2016–17 Formula E champion, Lucas Di Grassi.
The world's first purpose-built race car, Robocar was designed by Daniel Simon, who previously worked on vehicles for movies such as Tron: Legacy and Oblivion, along with painting the 2011 HRT Formula One Car. Michelin is the official tyre supplier, and the internal computing processors (Drive PX 2) are Nvidia.
The chassis itself is shaped similar to a teardrop, improving aerodynamic efficiency. The Car weighs around 1350 kg and is 4.8m(~15.7ft) long and 2m(~6.6ft) wide. It has four electric motors, each with a power of 135 kW producing over 500 hp combined, and utilizes a 58 kWh battery. For navigation, it relies on a mixture of optical systems, radars, lidars and ultrasonic sensors. A small rear wing at the rear end of the car indicates one or more electric motors. The vehicle is expected to be capable of reaching top speeds of more than 300 km/h (190 mph).
Development of the Robocar started in early 2016, with a first outing of a test vehicle, the so-called "DevBot," following in the summer of the same year. The test car consisted of the same internal units (battery, motor, electronics) used in the Robocar, but were placed in the chassis of a Ginetta LMP3 car without an engine cover in order to provide better cooling.
DevBot saw its first public outing at the Formula E pre-season tests in Donington Park in August 2016. After battery issues in Hong Kong caused the development team to abandon their demonstration run, the DevBot successfully drove twelve laps around the Moulay El Hassan Formula E circuit in Marrakesh.
During testing ahead of the 2017 Buenos Aires ePrix, two DevBot cars raced against each other autonomously, resulting in one of the vehicles crashing on a corner. Other test tracks included Michelin's testing ground in Ladoux and the Silverstone Stowe Circuit.
Further test runs are planned for the following Formula E events.
Beta season 2016/17
As the start of the season in the first Roborace year, the series organisers only announced "during the 2016/17 Formula E season" in advance. However, in this period only test drives with two different DevBots took place. These tests were called "beta season" by a Roborace spokeswoman in November 2016. Within the framework of the 2017 Buenos Aires ePrix both DevBot vehicles drove against each other on a race track for the first time. There were also DevBot demonstrations at the 2016 Marrakesh ePrix, 2017 Berlin ePrix, 2017 New York City ePrix and 2017 Montreal ePrix.
At the 2017 Paris ePrix, the developers also let a Robocar onto the track for the first time, even though the vehicle only sighted the track at walking speed.
Beta season 2017/18
At the start of the 2017/18 Formula E season, the Roborace developers once again tested the DevBot during a public time trial between the Roborace CI and the TV presenter Nicki Shields at the 2017 Hong Kong ePrix. As part of a similar time trial at the 2018 Rome ePrix, drift professional Ryan Tuerck also tested the DevBot.
The "Human and Machine Challenge" was created for the Formula E race on the Berlin ePrix. A team of doctoral students from the Technical University Munich and the University of Pisa programmed the software for the Devbot to drive it autonomously around the circuit in Berlin. Afterwards both teams in combination with a human driver competed in a public time trial. The vehicle of the team of the Technical University Munich finished the "Human and Machine Challenge" with an average lap time of 91.59 seconds, almost four seconds faster than that of the University Pisa with 95.36 seconds and thus won the Roborace Challenge.
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