The original plan for Roborace, the world’s first racing series for self-driving cars, was to have 20 of its fantastically futuristic vehicles compete against each other before each race in Formula E’s third season. Teams of engineers would program the cars, (all provided by the series) and the algorithms in their computer brains with slightly different takes on how and when to be aggressive on a racetrack.
The thing is, that hasn’t happened yet. But this past weekend in Paris, with six races to go, the self-driving electric Robocar finally took a lap.
A slow, but important, step
Roborace has had its own film crew documenting the ups and downs (but mostly the ups) of the project. The first piece they’ve produced about Saturday’s feat can be seen above for the first time anywhere.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t give us a very good look at the car’s slow crawl around the Paris streets. Luckily though, smartphones exist.
That Roborace finally got its production racecar around parts of a real race circuit at a pace faster than a walk seems like an accomplishment to me, even if it stopped a few times to get its bearings. (It’s also still a pretty far cry from Audi getting an autonomous RS7 to lap Hockenheimring in 2014, even though the German company didn’t have to build that car from scratch.)
But to Roborace’s credit, the development cars it had been testing set a pretty high bar for the Robocar. Over the last few months they raced, dueled, and yes, crashed. They hit 115 miles per hour while doing all of that, too. The Robocar and its NVIDIA-powered brain supposedly has a top speed of 199 miles per hour. Here’s hoping we see a glimpse of that sometime before the Formula E season ends in July. Because then we can finally start to figure out if anyone wants to watch.