Roborace was announced way back in 2015 to much fanfare as a proposed autonomous motorsport series. Back then we were nearing the peak of the self-driving ‘hype cycle’, so it seemed like an imminent possibility. But in the years that followed, it’s become clear just how difficult vehicle autonomy is going to be, and especially so if you want to make a bunch of driverless cars race each other without it resulting in a pile-up at the first corner.
And so, Roborace development work has been ongoing, with various prototypes tested behind closed doors and given demonstration runs at Formula E events. The technology still has a long way to go, and that means things like this can happen.
During Roborace’s ‘Event 1.1’ launch, which was streamed on Twitch from Thruxton circuit, SIT Autonomous’ £800,000 ‘DevBot 2.0’ prototype set off from the grid and immediately steered into a concrete barrier. Someone from the engineering team explained the less than ideal result of the car’s second run on Reddit, pinning the blame on “a problem during the initialisation lap which “caused the steering control signal to go to NaN [not a number]”.
This was transformed and read by the car as “a normal number, albeit a very large one,” causing it to steer hard to the right as it set off. The speed of the crash was low, but forceful enough to cause a reasonable amount of front-end damage.
Each of the teams competing in this year’s ‘Season Beta’ will use DevBot 2.0, which can be operated either autonomously or with a driver. 12 races will be taking place across six locations over the next few months in a mixed-reality “Metaverse”.