Formula E champion and ex-Formula 1 driver Lucas di Grassi has joined driverless racing series Roborace as CEO. Di Grassi’s role was announced at the Frankfurt Motor Show (Sept. 13).
He joins some other famous ex F1 drivers in taking on a business management role, including Niki Lauda, Jody Scheckter, and Nelson Piquet.
The 33-year-old Brazilian became the 2016-17 FE champion for Audi Sport ABT and has been a strong supporter of electric and autonomous racing, having joined Roborace as an advisor last year.
Roborace’s first autonomous demo took place at the Paris ePrix in May 2017 and the series is looking to start racing next year. It also raced its two LMP3-based ‘Devbot’ vehicles together in Buenos Aires, one of which crashed.
Invented by Russian entrepreneur Denis Sverdlov, Roborace was conceived as a platform for driverless Artificial Intelligence in motorsport. The tight, city circuits that the series will test and eventually race on will be used to research autonomous vehicles.
So far, demonstrations have taken place at Marrakech, Buenos Aires, Berlin, New York and Montreal.
Sverdlov will step down as CEO and become an advisor to work on his other projects, such as his autonomous trucks business, ‘Arrival’, which has announced a partnership with Royal Mail to trial smart electric freight vehicles.
“We want to take Roborace where motorsport cannot go, focusing the platform on future road-relevant autonomous technology,” said di Grassi in a statement.
“The future of mobility is autonomous, that’s an industry consensus now.
“In the same way, I believe that motorsport is about the driver, who is the best human being behind the wheel.
“I want to develop the Roborace series to be complimentary to traditional motorsport, and not to replace it.
“We invite the OEMs, suppliers, technology companies and universities to use our platform to showcase their technology and intellectual capacity in driverless systems.
“With the technology evolving so fast we must remain flexible on the events, races and challenges we are promoting.”
“We are thrilled that Lucas has agreed to come on board in an official capacity as Roborace continues to grow,” added Sverdlov.
“He brings a wealth of knowledge from other motorsport competitions he has developed and evolved and we are privileged to benefit from his experience.
“Lucas truly understands the importance of what Roborace can achieve – making our roads smarter and safer by sharing the benefits of A.I. to advance everything from driver assistance to collision avoidance, security technologies to full autonomy.”
With this move, di Grassi joins a growing list of motorsport names who have diversified their interests and invested, owned and operated new business in new ventures.
1979 F1 champion Jody Scheckter owns an organic farm in Hampshire, UK called ‘Laverstoke Park Farm’, while three-time F1 champion Nelson Piquet started a logistics tracking company called ‘Autotrac’ in 1994.
Niki Lauda attempted a foray into air travel with ‘Lauda Air’ and even David Coulthard, whilst not a CEO, co-founded production company ‘Whisper Films’, which is contracted by the UK’s Channel 4 to broadcast its 10 live F1 races until 2019 and does much of its sales in the F1 paddock.
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