Roborace is moving closer to the goal of autonomous race cars with the release of its first development vehicle. Known as the “DevBot,” the car doesn’t look anything like renderings released by Roborace earlier this year, but it does pack the hardware and software the nascent race series plans to use on its actual cars. The final designs for those cars will be unveiled later this year, series organizers say.
Unlike the final product, the DevBot has space for a human driver. Roborace says this is to allow teams to “fully understand how the car thinks and feels on a racetrack alongside the comprehensive real-time data.” It’s probably a good idea to have a human onboard anyway, in case the DevBot decides to go all Skynet on innocent bystanders.
Roborace says it has been testing the fully custom development vehicle for about nine months on airfields and racetracks, including the famous Silverstone circuit in England, home of the Formula One British Grand Prix. Teams will be able to use the car to experiment with different setups before entering a pre-qualifying process for the series, which begins next month.
Roborace is an offshoot of Formula E, which features electric cars driven the old fashioned way, by humans. The plan is for Roborace events to run in tandem with Formula E, serving as a sort of warmup to the main Formula E races. The use of “support series” like this isn’t uncommon in other forms of racing, but Roborace will be the first to use self-driving cars.
The DevBot will be shown to the public for the first time August 24 during the Formula E open practice sessions at the Donington, England circuit. The first Roboraces will take place during the upcoming Formula E season, which kicks off in Hong Kong October 9.