Is it the future? Or just a technical exercise?
Either way, this performance will be played out in front of a large public audience.
The Robocar, the vehicle to be used in the electric autonomous racing series Roborace, will make history by becoming the first vehicle to attempt an autonomous run of the Goodwood hillclimb at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed.
The Roborace championship is pencilled in to become a support race of the Formula E Championship in the coming years, and is expected to consist of ten teams of two single-spec cars.
The chassis and powertrain will be the same for all teams, but teams will be permitted to develop their own artificial intelligence technologies and use their own computing algorithms.
Using a development car called ‘DevBot’, testing for this race series has already taken place at various circuits, including the venues used by Formula E, and the Goodwood hillclimb is the latest test for a technology still in it’s infancy.
The Robocar has previous made an appearance at Goodwood; it was one of the centrepieces at the last year’s Festival of Speed Future Lab.
The Roborace team will once again be present in the Future Lab, and will offer fans the chance to witness the autonomous run from the immersive 360-degree VR cameras, which will be on board the car.
“We are excited that the Duke of Richmond has invited us to make history at Goodwood as we attempt the first ever fully – and truly – autonomous uphill climb using only artificial intelligence,“ said 2016-2017 Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi, CEO of Roborace.
“I can’t think of a more exciting way to celebrate our Silver Jubilee than to have Roborace attempt the first autonomous race car run up the hill,” added Charles Gordon-Lennox, the Duke of Richmond and Founder of the Festival of Speed.
“Roborace plays an important role in the future of mobility, challenging public perceptions and providing a platform to advance new technologies. This makes them the perfect partner to undertake this significant feat.”
The technical challenge of an autonomous Goodwood hillclimb
Using a dedicated 135kW electric motor at each wheel, it’s claimed the Robocar can produce over 500 horsepower in a vehicle that weighs 1350 kg.
Deep into the ‘brains’ of the car, the data regarding the car’s surroundings is processed by an NVIDIA DRIVE PX 2 computer, and receives inputs from LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), radar, GPS, ultrasonic and camera sensors all around the vehicle.
“The Goodwood hillclimb presents a real challenge for level 4/level 5 autonomous driving systems.” said Sergey Malygin, Chief of Software and AI at ARRIVAL.
“It is a narrow track with complex geometry. Turns and hills with a great deal of tree coverage mean you can’t rely on GPS / RTK signal for localisation. Use of all advanced sensors, including LiDARs and cameras with deep learning based computer vision methods are needed to perform well at this course.”
As expected, the trials haven’t all gone smoothly.
At last year’s Buenos Aires ePrix, a test run ended with DevBot colliding with one of the barriers at the temporary street circuit, which brought up questions regarding the readiness of the technology.
Whilst the Robocar will be the first to tackle an autonomous run at the Goodwood hillclimb, it’s not the first time an autonomous vehicle has attempted a famous circuit/course.
Audi brought their driverless TTS to Pike’s Peak back in 2010, completing five runs and reaching the summit in 27 minutes. Despite the fact that the best cars and drivers reach the top in around ten minutes, it was an impressive feat on one of the trickiest courses in motorsport.
Title Image: Roborace
Other Images: Motorsport Images
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