First Roborace Autonomous Car Competition Ends In Crash

If you are one of those people who thinks that an autonomous car will protect you from the perils of traffic accidents, you might want to recalibrate your thinking. Back in 2015, Formula E announced that it had entered into an arrangement with Roborace to add autonomous car racing as a part of its race weekends. The link up seems natural enough — self guided electric race cars competing on the same track as the real electric racers. The plan was to have 10 two car teams at each event.


“We passionately believe that, in the future, all of the world’s vehicles will be assisted by [artificial intelligence] and powered by electricity, thus improving the environment and road safety. Roborace is a celebration of revolutionary technology and innovation that humanity has achieved in that area so far. It’s a global platform to show that robotic technologies and AI can coexist with us in real life. Thus, anyone who is at the edge of this transformation now has a platform to show the advantages of their driverless solutions and this shall push the development of the technology,” says Denis Sverdlov, the founder of Kinetik and Roborace.

At the ePrix in Buenos Aires last weekend, two Roboracers took to the track in the first autonomous car race in history. (The other 9 teams have yet to materialize.)  There is no telling if the fans on hand were enthralled at the sight of two driverless vehicles careening around the track at speeds up to 115 miles per hour but the race was cut short when one of the cars missed a turn and crashed heavily.

Roborace officials were quick to point out that no humans were injured by the off track excursion, which is sort of the point of autonomous racing in the first place. They went on to say that racing is the only way to accurately measure the capability of self-driving systems and promote improvements in the technology going forward.

That may be so, but in the meantime seeing a self driving car obliterate itself in a high speed crash may not be the best way to engender public confidence in autonomous technology. Did the heat of competition induce one of the computers to exceed the limits of mechanical grip in order to win the first Roborace ever? We may never know but the implications are disturbing.

Mistakes are the best teachers. Let’s hope this one tiny error will lead to better autonomous cars for us all.

Source and photo credit: AutoBlog

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.