Driverless Formula E cars controlled by robots could make racing way cooler
Even if you aren’t into competitive auto sports, if you appreciate technology you have to respect Formula racing. The cars Formula One racers drive are basically just jets without wings, and each car can cost millions of dollars in development alone. They are technological marvels, and that’s before you even add a driver.
By comparison, the new Formula E racing series, which exclusively features electric cars, doesn’t come close to reaching the soul shattering speeds of F1, but the cars themselves are just as sophisticated – in some cases even more so due to the new type of engines.
Those Formula E cars are poised to get even more sophisticated, thanks to a new plan that will do away with the driver altogether, and replace them with an AI.
According to T3, Formula E and investment firm Kinetik have announced a partnership to create a new race series featuring driverless cars racing on the same tracks that Formula E compete on. The cars will feature a rudimentary artificial intelligence, and race under the banner “Roborace.”
The series will feature ten teams, each with two cars. The races will each last two hours, and take place on Formula E tracks – typically closed circuits with plenty of twists and turns that try even the most experienced human drivers.
Formula E cars are a little slower than their gas powered counterparts. The electric cars have a top speed of just under 150 mph, and a 0-60 speed of 3 seconds. The car batteries require special generators powered by the bio-diesel byproduct, glycerine, and they can only run for around two hours before they are completely drained.
By comparison, Formula One cars have a 0-60 speed average of 1.7 seconds, and the unofficial top speed was recorded at 257 mph (the official recorded top speed is 229.8 mph). The NASCAR record is 217 mph, with a 0-60 speed of 2.3 seconds. The new e-cars are improving though.
Formula E is just two years old, and more powertrain manufacturers are joining the sport. The electric cars will get better, faster, and more battery-efficient.
Beyond just being kind of cool, the Roborace will help to improve driverless technology for consumer models. If a driverless race car can hit 150 mph without touching another car or rail, then flipping over and exploding. Formula E is also something of a testing ground for electric car technology, and that isn’t going to change.
No word on when the new driverless Formula E cars are set to debut, but it should be within the next few years at the latest.