Roborace: The Racing Series Boosting Autonomous Driving Technology

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Source: Roborace

What will you learn from this article? An exciting example of a leading technology company developing the future of transportation: electric and autonomous transportation.


The Future of Transportation is Electric and Autonomous

There is absolutely no question: the future of transportation is electric and autonomous. There is no turning back and this seems to be the only way forward.

Many developed countries have already defined the time of when they will ban the selling of combustion engine cars, such as France, Germany, and Norway.

Thus, facing the dead-end for traditional engines, the majority car manufacturers are investing heavily into electric cars and the total investment is expected to reach an astonishing $ 90 billion.

Moreover, the exponential development of artificial intelligence has boosted the research and development of autonomous cars: vehicles that drives by itself and requires hardly any human input.

These are not futuristic ideas. Nissan is implementing self-driving taxis, Ford is bringing autonomous cars to Miami, and Uber has its own center of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh.

However, if there is one factor that is responsible for making the development of technologies truly exponential, that is COMPETITION.

And this is exactly why we now have a new racing series, named ROBORACE, to support the development and boost the research and implementation of electric and autonomous technologies in cars.

And the CEO of Roborace is a talented Brazilian racing driver, current World Champion of Formula E, Lucas Di Grassi.


Roborace CEO: Who is Lucas Di Grassi?

Lucas Di Grassi is a Brazilian racing driver. Born in Sao Paulo (Brazil), Lucas initiated his career in karting and after many race wins he moved to Europe and raced in junior formulas such as F3, F2 (named GP2 at the time) and joined the prestigious Renault’s Driver Academy.

After competing and being a successful race winner in all possible junior racing categories, in 2010 he reached the pinnacle of motorsport: Formula 1. However, F1 is a complex sport where money, politics and commercial interests play a significant role in the future of drivers.

Despite all the success achieved earlier, Lucas found himself in a modest team (Virgin F1) without hardly any chance of showing potential. After only one year, his F1 career was over.

However Lucas is much more than a driver. He is a visionary.

Due to his incredible technical knowledge and great interpersonal skills, Lucas joined forces with Pirelli to be a tire development driver for F1, and meanwhile adventured on a completely new idea: to develop a NEW racing category of electric cars.

Back in 2011 this seemed as an unknown. The new category, named Formula E was launched and Lucas helped develop the new cars and build the category. The first season took place in 2014 and in just three years is considered already the second most relevant racing category in the world.

And while helping to develop the cars, contributed to promoting electric vehicles and the category, Di Grassi is also a driver for Audi Sport ABT Schaffler. After three years with the team, Lucas achieved a third (2014-2015), second (2015-2016) place in the championship and in the season of 2016-2017 was crowed champion.

But remember, Lucas is much more than a driver. He is a visionary.


Roborace: Aligning Artificial Intelligence, Cars and Competition

Roborace is intended to a technology driven competition. In essence, it is nothing like traditional motor racing. The hero is not intended to the human capacity to achieve greatness, but the capacity of the technology developed by each team.

And who is the CEO of the company? Lucas Di Grassi.

Motor sport has always been a platform for technology development which was later implemented in road cars. There are multiple examples that came from Formula 1, such as braking systems, safety devices, engines, power steering and much more.

However with transportation moving towards an electric and autonomous direction, Formula 1 can no longer fulfill this space. Formula E is now proving an incredible contribution for the development of batteries, but there is an important part of the equation missing: the autonomous aspect.

This is exactly where Roborace fits in and will provide an immense contribution.

The general idea is that Roborace will become a platform for manufacturers, suppliers and all various forms of stakeholders to join and align their developments against competitors and at the same time transform it in a show to be the admired by audiences.

This last part might potentially be the most challenging one of all.


How to Make Roborace Attractive to The Public?

Making a fully electric and autonomous series attractive to the general public might be an immense task, that requires great creativity.

The initial idea, as posted by Lucas is to capture the audience’s attention by focusing on technological capacity of the machines, such as braking and acceleration.

But will the audience be interested in it? Which stories can be told simply with these variables?

In the recent years Formula 1 has focused on engine performance, when introducing Hybrid V6 power trains. What happened? The audience did not follow. It was too complex even for the most passionate fan.

What is the biggest desire from fans? To simply watch competitive racing.

So Roborace will require a substantial amount of research to understand the perception of racing fans and how to engage. Without an audience to follow, the entire series might suffer.

Personally I believe there are creative ways of doing so. These might include:

  • Online co-creation with the audience for livery development, branding, broadcasting and much more
  • Racing under extreme conditions and tracks
  • Partnership with iconic driver brands: Senna, Prost, Piquet, Lauda.
  • Partnership with universities and schools
  • Free-live broadcasting with real-time data
  • Creative educational content for students of all ages
  • Roadshows and demonstrations

All of the above are possible and feasible, but challenging. Communicating an “autonomous moving block” around a race track is not an easy task.

But a very exciting one.


Conclusion

Roborace can have, and most likely will, a truly global impact. Simply the fact that it aims to gather and connect key stakeholders in the electric and autonomous transportation industry is already a reason to celebrate.

In less than 5 years Formula E has evolved immensely, became a global brand, has been the main platform to showcase electric vehicles and has attracted the main car manufacturers. Again, in less than 5 years. Moreover, next year will introduce its new car with a much more powerful battery and reaching over 300km/h.

Why? Because it is a competitive environment.

With the implementation of Roborace, the creation of a highly competitive environment and the exponential nature of AI, I expect the autonomous driving technology to evolve at an unseen pace.

And this alone, makes Roborace a truly inspiring brand.

 

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