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Roborace details the tech behind its wild autonomous racecar

Roborace details the tech behind its wild autonomous racecar


I, for one, welcome our robot racing overlords

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Roborace — the autonomous racing series that is supposed to run alongside Formula E sometime this upcoming season — has released a new image of its outrageous-looking "Robocar." The new photo shows a "production version" of the car that’s more final than the first renderings we saw back in March, and it details all the bits of tech that will help guide the vehicle around the track. You can see a full-resolution version here.

The Robocar will use a number of lidar and radar sensors, which are strategically placed around the front, back, and sides of the vehicle. There will be two global navigation system sensors on top, though the drawing doesn’t say whether the cars will use GPS or the Russian version, GLONASS. These are pretty standard options as far as autonomous vehicle tech goes, but seeing it integrated into a car that’s this striking is certainly something else.

Familiar tech in a totally unfamiliar package

The graphic also calls out the Nvidia Drive PX 2 supercomputer, which is the brain that will power the Robocars. The Drive PX 2 is a beast — it uses 12 CPU cores to produce eight teraflops of computing power and 24 trillion operations a second — so it will also get its own dedicated cooling vent on the car to help make sure it can operate at full efficiency.

Roborace was formed by an investment company called Kinetik, which is run by Denis Sverdlov, who created the Yotaphone. Kinetik also hepled start Charge, a company based in London that is working on developing a fleet of electric trucks.

On the left, the updated version of the Robocar. On the right, the version revealed in March.

To take on the task of creating a dynamic-looking racecar, though, Sverdlov hired Daniel Simon, the visual artist behind iconic movie props like the light cycles in Tron: Legacy and the Bubbleship from Oblivion. Simon also helped Roborace whittle the design from April into the production version that was announced yesterday. "We changed every single surface on the Robocar to further enhance the performance, but kept the iconic character of the original concept," Simon tells The Verge. "That is a highly complex challenge for design and engineering and we enjoyed that process throughly."

As far as we know, the plan is to run Roborace in a similar manner to the way Formula E runs — there will be 10 teams, and each will be equipped with two cars, making up a field of 20 for each hour-long race. But Roborace’s marketing material has started to refer to the events as "shows," claiming that the series will offer "disruptive and innovative new formats showcasing safety and extreme driving capabilities."

Otherwise we still don’t know much about Roborace. The series hasn’t shared whether or not it’s signed up any companies to compete, or how many have shown interest in joining the series. We also still don’t know when it will make its debut — Formula E’s third season starts in October and runs well into the summer of 2017, and all of those dates are apparently still on the table.