FCW Blog Motorsport March 2017
FCW Blog – Motorsport March 2017
Self-driving Cars – The Motorsports Technology Leading the Way
Throughout their history, motorsports have played a major role in pushing the boundaries of vehicles, making them faster, stronger, lighter and safer. When new technologies and innovations are introduced to the competitive racing scene, they often find their way into the mass market over time, as they become less expensive, more refined and safer in the hands of a non-professional driver.
Pioneering new technologies in motorsports first not only allows for improvements to be made to the technologies themselves, but provides an opportunity for manufacturers to spread awareness of the new products, gauge public interest, and make them more marketable.
Many of the features we take for granted in today’s every day road vehicles were first pioneered in Formula 1 before seeing mass market production. This includes anti-lock braking, traction control and semi-automatic transmission, as well as new materials such as carbon fibre, now seen in most high performance production cars. In recent years, the professional racing scene has played a major role in developing environmentally friendly driving solutions, testing hybrid engine technology, as well as pioneering electric vehicles through the lesser-known Formula-E series, Formula 1’s electric-only sibling.
As more car manufacturers are looking to develop safer self-driving technologies, it comes as no surprise that in 2015, Formula-E announced the introduction of its first autonomous motorsport, ‘Roborace’. Described as a "competitive platform for the autonomous driving solutions that are now being developed by many large industrial automotive and technology players", Roborace could lead to huge advancements in both self-driving technology and for electric cars.
Rather than building their own cars, as in traditional motorsports, Roborace teams develop autonomous driving software to run on pre-built vehicles. Roborace’s first self-driving racer - the ‘DevBot’ – was introduced in August last year, and is currently being used as a test car for the development teams to work on their software. Unlike the competition cars, the initial test model features a cockpit which allows a driver to take control if required, and enables teams to understand how the car feels and reacts in real-time on the track.
Roborace will play an important part in not only developing autonomous vehicle technology, but in improving the public perception of driverless cars. The start of this month saw the unveiling of the first competition ‘Robocar’, which features a more futuristic design than the DevBot, with no cockpit and clean, sweeping lines replacing the more angular traditional look.
Roborace’s first public race has yet to take place, with the previously planned test run at the Mobile World Congress being put on hold due to delayed parts. However, there are plans for further devbot demonstrations to take place throughout the current Formula-E season.