Originally announced in November 2015, the first motor racing series for autonomous cars has revealed further details of the vehicles competing.
Intended as a showpiece for the latest self-driving technologies, the ‘Roborace’ series plans to run alongside the FIA Formula E Championship during the 2016-2017 season. Roborace will take place before 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 teams will have the same electric cars, but will compete using their own real-time computing algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. As the Roborace organizers believe independent talents might contribute to this initiative, one of the race teams will be organized as a crowd-sourced community enterprise.
The Roborace series will feature a radical design from German concept designer and automotive futurist, Daniel Simon, whose portfolio features work across the Volkswagen group, including contributions to Seat, Lamborghini and Bugatti models, as well as several films, such as ‘Tron: Legacy’. Simon’s stripped down design is unlike anything created for Formula 1, Le Mans or IndyCar series vehicles, as here there is no need to protect or leave space for a driver. Without a human driver behind the wheel, Roboracers are reliant on data from a huge array of sensors and cameras. Lidar units are fitted to the front corners, flanks and rear, augmented by front and rear radar units and ultrasonic sensors. Cameras are mounted inside the front bodywork and the ‘tower’ between the rear wheels, feeding information back to the central AI unit.
The tower also carries a 360° TV camera, status lights and a pitot tube pressure measurement instrument to provide the vehicle’s airspeed. The bodywork contains a GNSS unit to determine the vehicle’s position on the track, together with another GNSS unit with V2X capabilities to allow it to communicate with other vehicles or trackside infrastructure. The car’s AI unit is a Nvidia Drive PX 2, which will process the huge amounts of raw data from the multiple sensors at ultra-high speed. The Nvidia processor, ancillary computing equipment and control systems are cooled by a dedicated intake between the front wheels. The vital components are all mounted in the center of the fuselage, to keep them as far away from damage as possible. The vehicles are entirely electric-powered, with cooling outlets for the battery pack incorporated in the rear wheel arches. The 10-race Roborace series is expected to start at the Formula E championship event in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in February 2017.