Formula E to run the first driverless car races

It was only a few years ago that driverless cars seemed beyond the realms of possibility and now it’s likely that people will be able to watch them race, with Formula E planning to have them compete at up to 186mph.

The all-electric racing series is working with investment firm Kinetik to create the world’s first driverless car racing series. Dubbed Roborace, the races will run ahead of each scheduled Formula E event from next season.

Ten teams, each with two cars, will square off against each other in hour-long races on the same circuits that the Formula E cars will hurtle around. The cars will be the same as the next in order to get the teams’ developers to focus on creating better algorithms and artificial intelligence to win. It takes inspiration from how the Formula E teams were required to run the same cars in the event’s debut season, which meant there was more focus on the development of battery technology.

One of the competing teams is a “crowd-sourced community team”, consisting of “enthusiastic software and technology experts,” according to organisers. Beyond that, details of other participants are closely guarded for now, although Kinetik’s founder Denis Sverdlov told Wired UK that the vehicles would have a top speed of more than 300kph (about 186mph). That would make them faster than Formula E cars, which hit around 140mph and would make the autonomous cars the fastest on the planet, outpacing Audi’s self-driving RS7’s top speed of 149mph.

“We are very excited to be partnering with Kinetik on what is surely one of the most cutting-edge sporting events in history,” said Alejandro Agag, chief executive of Formula E. “Roborace is an open challenge to the most innovative scientific and technology-focused companies in the world. It is very exciting to create a platform for them to showcase what they are capable of and I believe there is great potential for us to unearth the next big idea through the unique crowd-sourced contest.”

Automotive start-up Charge, which was founded by Kinetik, will support Roborace.

Further details and announcements about the teams and technologies to be used will be made early next year.

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