The Formula E electric motor racing series is adding a robotic opening act: autonomous cars will race just before the human-driven race begins. The races, scheduled for the 2016-2017 season, will comprise a parallel championship called ROBORACE.
The robo-cars won’t have the same specifications as the human-driven ones. Free from the burden of meat and safety hardware, the robot cars could have an hours’ endurance, organizers say, which is about double that of last year’s human-driven Formula E cars.
What they gain in endurance, they lose in human decision-making power. But already, Formula E engineers and mechanics attributed a lot of their success—and failures—to their power-management algorithms (see “A New Formula for Formula E”, IEEE Spectrum, October 2015). With human drivers out of the picture, and all teams using the same hardware, the differences between each team’s driving algorithms will dominate ROBORACE.