Formula E unveils new support series for driverless cars
Formula E has revealed plans to begin a new support category for the series starting from season three that will feature driverless car technology.
The championship, dubbed ROBORACE, is set to make its debut during the first ePrix of the 2016/17 season using identical all-electric, autonomous cars.
Races will be one hour long, to be held two hours before each ePrix – with teams able only to modify the car's software and not any physical aspects of the car.
Each of the 10 teams will be required to run two cars, while one of the teams will be crowdsourced.
It will also be open to – but not compulsory for – Formula E's existing teams, and is aimed primarily at those outfits with manufacturer links or a specific interest in the development of driverless technology.
“We passionately believe that, in the future, all of the world’s vehicles will be assisted by AI and powered by electricity, thus improving the environment and road safety," said founder of investment company Kinetik Denis Sverdlov.
"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 co-exist 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."
An "open challenge"
Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag added that the ethos of the series fits in with a future vision of the car that he described as "electric, connected and driverless."
“We are very excited to be partnering with Kinetik on what is surely one of the most cutting-edge sporting events in history," he added.
"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.”
Queried about the lack of characters in a series for autonomous cars, Sverdlov was adamant that personality could be expressed in other ways.
"We want the engineers to be public people, so that the personality comes from the teams, and we will make it mandatory that every car has a name," he said.