Driverless electric racer completes successful track test in Marrakesh, Morocco.
In the planned Roborace series, autonomous cars will compete during Formula E ePrix weekends.
It’s a car equipped with technology the developers boldly predict will change our cities and lives.
The autonomous “DevBot #1” has recently made a huge leap forward in Morocco, debuting on a street circuit during the Formula E Marrakech ePrix.
The battery-operated prototype is being tested for Roborace – a proposed racing series in which driverless cars compete on temporary city circuits.
“It’s the first time we’ve run the Devbot in driverless mode on a Formula E track in the middle of a city street,” Roborace’s Justin Cooke told CNN.
“It’s so exciting for the team that put in hours and hours of work. Until 1-2 AM, these guys were developing a technology that no one else in the world can do at this speed and in these complicated environments.”
#FormulaE next stop: #Morocco 🇲🇦 #MarrakeshePrix #CNNSupercharged pic.twitter.com/YkLRRiCGig
Using a variety of sensors – including GPS, radar, and ultrasound – coupled with advanced computer programs, the car learns how to navigate a track at high speed, avoiding all obstacles.
“What we’re doing right now is at the forefront of technology,” said Cooke, also CMO of Kinetik – an investment company founded by Russian businessman Denis Sverdlov financially supporting the project.
“There are two or three kinds of space races if you will – some people are going to Mars, we’re developing robot cars, and I think it’s probably one of the most, if not the most, exciting space in the world right now.”
Following the successful 30-minute test in Marrakech – this year’s host city for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP22) – Cooke says the company will try to race two cars together on the track next time, with the ultimate goal to have up to 10 cars competing on each Formula E ePrix weekend.
A new series of robot racing cars will be launched in 2017.
Formula E Championship Weekends. The organizers have commissioned Daniel Simon – famous for his work on films like “Tron: Legacy” – to design the race car.” class= “gallery-image__dam-img”/>
The planned “Roborace” series will be contested over the weekends of the Formula E Championship. The organizers have commissioned Daniel Simon – famous for his work on films like “Tron: Legacy” – to design the race car. Watch a video of it in action here” class= “gallery-image__dam-img”/>
The battery-powered prototype can reach 350 km/h, according to Roborace.
The “Roborace” series will start in 2017, and 10 autonomous cars will compete on the same track.
The car successfully navigated the track during November’s Formula E Marrakech ePrix. The all-electric racing series hosts robot races during ePrix weekends.
A small team of engineers and computer scientists developed the car. “With this car, we have different kinds of sensors,” Sergey Malygin, an artificial intelligence developer at Roborace, told CNN. “First, there are laser measurements — light-based, so we have information about the 3D objects around us.”
“We also have cameras, radars, and ultrasonics to get information about other vehicles and base stations,” continues Malygin. “We also have precise positioning systems and optical speed sensors.”
“Getting this information into (the car), processing it, and getting a valuable insight into what’s going on around us takes a lot of computing power,” explains Malygin. The raw data is then deciphered by algorithms that tell the car where the walls and other vehicles are on the road.
Roborace engineer, Matas Simonavicius, says each wheel is driven individually, providing greater stability and safety. “One motor drives one wheel,” Simonavicius told CNN. “This way, you can apply torque vectoring – you can control the power to the wheels much better, how it rides, and the performance it delivers. It’s more advanced than the conventional stability control ABS.”
But are self-driving cars a good idea? ‘I think so,’ says Simonavicius. “What is the biggest cause of accidents right now? It’s human error.”
“That’s why we want to bring this car into a controlled environment where you can’t hurt people, and you can prove that it works,” says Simonavicius.
“We’re trying to change people’s perspective on it, so they’ll see it in races and see it’s safe and does all these cool things.”
“To be here at COP22 as we celebrate an electric future, a driverless future – it’s the perfect time for Roborace,” Cooke enthuses.
“Most importantly, we want people to be excited about the technology because it will change our lives and cities.”