Auto Tech

Roborace eschews human drivers in its all-new autonomous racing series

Electric race series Formula E and a tech group called Kinetic are teaming up to bring the future of passenger mobility to the racetrack.

Imagine this picture without a driver, or space in the car for a driver. That's Roborace in a nutshell.
Adam Warner/Formula E

First, autonomous driving came for our commutes. Now, thanks to international racing series Formula E, it's coming for our racecars, too. This week, the all-electric racing organization announced that it will launch a purely self-driving series called Roborace, with the help of tech-investment group Kinetic.

Roborace will feature 10 different teams, each with two autonomous racecars. As with Formula E, all the cars will be the same, which means that it's up to the "driver" to succeed. In this case, the "driver" refers to the software that each team will bring to the start line.

"Roborace is a celebration of revolutionary technology and innovation that humanity has achieved in that area so far," said Denis Sverdlov, founder of Kinetic. "Anyone who is at the edge of this transformation now has a platform to show the advantages of their driverless solutions."

The series won't be a playground for billion-dollar automakers alone. The goal is to get manufacturers, tech companies and universities in on the action. In a statement, Formula E mentioned that one of the 10 teams will be a "crowd-sourced community team" that's "open for enthusiastic software and tech experts all over the world."

Manufacturers are already starting to dabble in autonomous racing. Audi has Robby, a self-driving RS7 performance sedan that's capable of tackling racetracks programmed into it. It's not capable of the wheel-to-wheel racing that Roborace promises, however -- if something gets in Robby's way, it's going to get run over.

Formula E and Kinetic are hoping to get Roborace up and running for a 2016-2017 debut.