The first global autonomous car racing championship will start in 2016, the creators of Formula E have announced.
Known as RoboRace, the series will see completely autonomous electric cars compete in one-hour races designed to test artificial intelligence.
Races, which will take place on the same day and circuits as the Formula E championship, will have 10 teams and 20 cars competing.
“In terms of technology we’re trying to make them better than humans. So it means we expect the cars will have high acceleration and high speeds,” Denis Sverdlov, from Kinetik, the company that will make all the cars, told WIRED.
“Even if the first race isn’t going to be as high-speed as the current one can do, it is still going to be a huge achievement.”
He said the cars would have top speeds of “more than 300kph (186mph)”, but added they were still in the early stages of development. The races will see the electric battery-powered cars competing against each other for one hour.
The concept of the car has already been developed and will be “very different” to the designs of current race cars. There are also no safety issues for humans as the autonomous cars will be on the existing fenced-off race tracks used for Forumla E.
“We really need to try and imagine what a car will look like [not just] tomorrow but the day after tomorrow,” Sverdlov said.
No teams have signed up to take part, but Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E, told WIRED he would like to see “all the companies that are working on driverless” be involved in the championship.
“Some of these companies are more adventurous than others, some just want to do a driverless system to park their car,” he said. “But some want to do a proper driverless condition and they want to show it in extreme conditions, this is the place for them to be.”
Agag listed Google, Uber, Continental and Bosh as some of the companies he would like to see involved in driverless racing.
Development of all the vehicles taking part in the championship will be handled by Kinetik, which has already developed electric trucks for UK roads. Individual companies competing will be tasked with creating their own algorithms and artificial intelligence to get the cars around the tracks.
Sverdlov told WIRED that his company had already created the initial software that will power the cars: “We’ve created the first version of the APIs, so the teams can start to use the APIs to do their algorithms and use the simulations to see how it works.”
Mark Preston, from Team Aguri, one of the Formula E teams, welcomed the new race and said that testing autonomous vehicles in race situations could lead to more driverless technology spreading to other forms of racing, such as Formula One.
“Maybe we should have autonomous safety car, or a follow me function so when there are yellow flags the safety car could be autonomous and all the drivers could follow autonomously — or may be the cars could go down the pit lane autonomous,” he told WIRED.
Preston said autonomous racing will be exciting at the beginning as there will be mistakes and things will go wrong, plus the ‘personality’ that exists with current drivers will move to the teams and engineers.
As well as established companies it is planned that the races, which will start alongside the 2016/17 Forumla E season, will have one crowdsourced team.