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Roborace shows how hard it is to make a self-driving racing series

Roborace shows how hard it is to make a self-driving racing series

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About a year ago, the creator of the YotaPhone made a curious announcement: he was starting a new racing series comprised only of self-driving cars. The series, called Roborace, would act as an opening act for Formula E — the all-electric racing series started in 2014. The fantastic looking Roborace cars, which were showed off earlier this year, would race each other on the same street circuits that Formula E competes on. The only proof that any of this was happening, though, showed up in the form of a couple test runs across the last few months.

Today, the series released the first episode in what will be an ongoing documentary series that offers a behind the scenes look at the work going into making Roborace a reality. It’s the first peek behind the curtain of Roborace, and it doesn't shy away from showing the difficulties in bringing an autonomous racing series to life. This episode is about engineers dealing with a battery failure, which ultimately led to them scrapping a planned demonstration. That demonstration, scheduled for last weekend in Hong Kong at Formula E's season debut, was supposed to be Roborace's first public appearance outside of preseason testing. This video sheds light on why we'll have to wait a little longer for a real demonstration.

Along with the release of this first episode, Roborace appears to be admitting the obvious: there’s a decreasing likelihood of pulling off an actual race during Formula E’s third season. Instead, the series organizers are now referring to this as a "beta season" for Roborace, and the main goal will be to continue doing demonstrations with the test car (known as "DevBot") in order to familiarize people with the series. It seems only fitting that, much like the self-driving tech we hear about from big automotive companies, patience will be a requirement for those who want to see Roborace’s robots race.