The strange beauty of the first self-driving race car

The strange beauty of the first self-driving race car

Roborace, Formula E’s long-developing autonomous racing series, just unveiled its first self-driving race car at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. It’s called the Robocar, and it doesn’t look like anything we’ve ever seen before. If the appearance is jarring, just consider how much space you save when there’s no need for a cockpit to hold a driver’s seat (or, for that matter, a driver)Race Cr 3

Race Car 2The design was first teased last March in a tantalizing video that showed off the initial digital mock-ups. It’s the brainchild of Daniel Simon, who is best known for creating the slick futuristic aesthetic of movies like Tron: Legacy and Oblivion. Here, he puts his imagination genius to the real-world pavement.

Now that the Robocar has evolved beyond the renderings, we can finally truly appreciate the sleek package that will bring autonomous racing to tracks around the world.

The Robocar doesn’t just look the part—it packs quite a punch, too. Each wheel has its own 300kW motor, which will purportedly push it to speeds of up to 320 kph (200 mph). The car’s computing power is provided by the Nvidia Drive PX2 and a whole slew of specialized sensors and cameras, which capture the external information the car needs to successfully zip around the racetrack. 

Race Car

The Robocar’s debut comes shortly after Roborace held the first race between self-driving cars at the Buenos Aires ePrix. The competitors were not full blown Robocars, though—the series tests its self-driving AI system using prototypes called DevBots. The winning Devbot hit a top speed of 186 kph (115 mph), while the losing one crashed against the wall. (The system still has some bugs to work out.) 

There is no footage of the Robocar in action just yet, and it won’t be run on a public track for at least another few weeks, according to The Verge. The autonomous platform will be tested again, likely using DevBots like the race in Buenos Aires, at the next Formula E race in Mexico City on April 1.

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