Seriously, autonomous vehicles are now becoming fast enough to race on the track. This comes after Roborace – hoping to claim the title as the world’s first driverless racing series – recently unfurled the first driverless and emission-free racing car at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
Touted as the first driverless electric racing car in the world, “The Robocar” boasts of a futuristic design that places emphasis not only on its advanced electrified powertrain but also on the use of autonomous technology, both hardware and software. The Robocar is the brainchild of Daniel Simon, the same man behind the design of vehicles for the futuristic movies like Tron: Legacy and Oblivion. Before landing a job in Roborace as its chief design officer, Simon was a senior designer at Bugatti. His portfolio of designs includes drones, spaceships, motorcycles and Le Mans cars – making him become renowned as one of the best designers of the world.
In designing The Robocar, Simon’s goal was to create a self-driving car with all the needed race car provisions sans any compromise in its beauty. To achieve a fine balance between beauty and performance, Simon is leading a team that includes not only aerodynamics experts but also racing engineers. Simon accompanied Roborace chief executive Denis Sverdlov during the unveiling of The Robocar at Mobile World Congress. During the unveiling, Sverdlov disclosed that the Roborace is willing to share the Robocar to engineers around the world to enable them to further advance its software and its driverless electric technology.
As designed and created, The Robocar weighs a measly 975 kg thanks to the use of carbon fiber as material for most of its parts and components. It is also pretty compact, with dimensions of 4.8 m in length and 2 m in width. Its electric propulsion system includes four 300 kW electric motors that get their juice from a 540 kW battery pack. Its electric motors should allow The Robocar to go as fast as 320 km/h (over 198 mph) on the track.
For its self-driving system, The Robocar employs five LiDar (Light Detection and Ranging) and two radar units as well as 18 ultrasonic sensors and two optical speed sensors. The Robocar’s autonomous technology also employs six AI cameras and GNSS positioning. Serving as the ‘brain’ of The Robocar is the Nvidia Drive PX 2 that makes use of artificial intelligence to get the complexities involved in autonomous driving. In fact, Nvidia Drive PX 2 – capable of up to 24 trillion AI operations per second -- employs a deep learning system for a 360-degree situational awareness around The Robocar in order to determine its exact location while calculating a safe and efficient trajectory.
Meanwhile, Roborace has tapped Michelin as its official tire partner. Michelin will use this opportunity to develop a new generation of road tires that could handle the speeds and rigors of autonomous driving.