Roborace car revealed: meet the FIA’s autonomous racing ‘Robocar’

Published: 31 March 2016

► First pictures of autonomous ‘Robocar’
► Roborace series will support Formula E
► Driverless racing series starts later in 2016

You may have heard of the FIA’s upcoming ‘Roborace’ series. If not, here’s a quick recap: it’s a motor racing series for driverless cars (yep, you read that right), which is planned to become part of the Formula E championship’s support package from the 2016-17 season.

The one-hour races will take place before each Formula E ‘ePrix’, on the same street circuits around the world as the headliners, with ten teams (each with two cars) vying for glory. All the cars will be identical; it will be down to the teams’ individual computing abilities to get their cars over the line first.

Read more about autonomous racing in CAR+

Now here's our first look at the Roborace car, which was officially revealed today.

The Robocar – a drone with downforce

The ‘Robocar’ has been styled by future-gazing automotive designer Daniel Simon (it’s well worth seeking out some of his exciting sci fi-inspired work), who has been announced as Roborace’s ‘chief design officer.’

‘My goal was to create a vehicle that takes full advantage of the unusual opportunities of having no driver without compromising on beauty,’ says Simon. ‘Racing engineers and aerodynamicists have worked with me from the beginning to strike that balance. The Roborace is as much about competition as it is entertainment. Therefore – and quite unusual in today’s racing world – beauty was very high on our agenda and we work[ed] hard to merge the best performance with stunning styling,’ he adds, modestly.

In keeping with Formula E’s electric theme, the Robocars will be powered by batteries and motors. No official details have yet been released regarding the cars’ powertrain or performance, although high cornering speeds are expected.

‘It was important to us that we generate substantial downforce without unnecessary parts cluttering the car to maintain a clean and iconic look,’ Simon explains. ‘This is largely made possible by using the floor as the main aerodynamic device and we are currently developing active body parts that are more organic and seamless than solutions today.’

What will Roboracing be like?

We’re still waiting to hear more on the exact format of Roborace, besides races that will last for one hour and feature 20 cars. The organisers say the series will showcase the safety of autonomous cars and their potential ability to perform extreme manoeuvres when required, helping to build public confidence in driverless technology in the process.

Will the cars slide around much? Will some teams program their cars to dive for last-gasp outbraking moves? What will the race organisers do for post-race interviews? Will they speak to the software programmers? And if they do, will they have anything to say? Who knows.

How do you feel about the idea of autonomous racing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, occasional racer