One of the major points to defend motorsports is how it supposedly helps develop new tech for cars. If you think about Roborace, that’s the strongest reason for creating it. Apart from saving some pilots’ lives in very fast and eventually dangerous races, the category aims to help develop autonomous driving. Ironically, it depends on having it ready to even start. A crash shows not only the competition may be distant: self-driving cars also are.
The incident you can see in the video above happened last October 29 at the Thruxton Racetrack in the UK. It was what Roborace called the Round 1 of its Beta Season.
There are currently six teams in the competition: MIT, Università di Pisa, Carnegie Mellon, Autonomous Racing Graz, Arrival Racing, and Acronis SIT Autonomous. The car that crashed into the wall belongs to this last one.
Roborace consists of these six teams using the same electric vehicle. The DevBot 2.0 – which can also be driven by a human pilot – uses the Nvidia DRIVE platform and the only difference it can have from its competitors is the artificial intelligence driver software that the teams develop.
Apart from the track, the vehicles also deal with a virtual environment with prizes if they are able to perform some tasks. Called the Metaverse, it is a mixed reality racing format. That implies the tracks have already been mapped so that the virtual reality environment can be inserted in the competition.
The accident shows that reality is the major issue, even with good weather. If it was raining, the cars could have spun due to low-friction conditions, but that was not the case. The difficulty was getting the car to drive autonomously as it should.
If you can get such results in a mapped environment, with good weather, taking it to the streets – with many more unpredictable variables playing a role – is exponentially more complicated.