man vs machine on a street circuit is one step closer to skynet w video
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Man vs. machine on a street circuit is one step closer to Skynet – w/video

At least humans are still very much quicker… for now

Dinesh Appavu Photo

Dinesh Appavu

15 May 2018


Roborace is shaping up to be a motorsport championship with electric-propelled, autonomously driving vehicles and will be held on the same tracks the FIA Formula E Championship runs on. If you’re thinking that the people behind it never saw the Terminator movies, you’re not alone.

Anyways, the first of the closed-cockpit prototype vehicles; dubbed DevBot, was recently pitted against a motorsports professional on the bumpy Formula E street circuit around Rome. However, it wasn’t one of the Formula E drivers that held the fort for the humans but instead it was pro-drifter Ryan Tuerck that competes in the Formula Drift series.

DevBot has an electric motor at each wheel that whizzes out 550hp combined and still has a cockpit for when a human wants to get behind the wheel (shameless plug). Its developers feel that DevBot is capable of setting a lap representative of a human motorsports professional.

In case you’ve forgotten, Yamaha has been doing the same with its Motobot autonomous motorcycle that took on Valentino Rossi.

Tuerck does get some pointers from defending Formula E champion Lucas DiGrassi, who is also the chief executive officer of Roborace. Being a street circuit, the lack of runoff was the most concerning.

DevBot on the other hand wasn’t privy to such advice as perhaps DiGrassi’s coding isn’t up to par yet. Nonetheless, after Tuerck’s lap the engineers sent it out for its lap and the video of watching a racecar rifle down the straight without a driver behind the wheel (another shameless plug) is something that might be a more common sight if Denis Sverdlov, founder of Roborace, is to be believed. He feels that the car could be capable of going faster than a human within the year.

Ultimately though, Tuerck won it for the humans and by quite a margin too; 27 seconds. Still, the goal here was to demonstrate that the DevBot is capable of replicating the performance and lap times of a motorsport professional.

Roborace will be a fully autonomous, electric racing series but if the cars ever get up to par with humans a series that pits DevBots against human drivers in door-to-door racing would be a surefire way to reignite interest in motorsports.



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