Watch: A robotic race car zips around this historic track without a driver

A new autonomous racing series will use the same tracks as Formula 1. But will it be any fun without drivers?
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer

An autonomous car has successfully pulled off a high-speed lap at the historic Goodwood hill climb circuit in West Sussex, England.

The vehicle that ran the one mile-plus lap is called Robocar, an autonomous electric platform that underlies a new robot racing circuit called Roborace, which is chaired by former Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi.

The idea is that various teams will compete on challenging tracks using identical hardware and sensor packages. Each team will be responsible for its own AI and real-time computing algorithms.

It's kind of like the DARPA Robotics Challenge, but for race teams.

It's also the closest a coder is likely to come to getting behind the wheel of a high-performance race car in cutthroat competition.

Robocar was designed by Daniel Simon, a German concept designer who's worked on Hollywood movies like Tron.

There's been no announced start date to the Roborace circuit, but the test at Goodwood is a promising development.

Using LiDAR, radar, ultrasonic sensors, and cameras, Robocar capably navigated the track, albeit at speeds that might be considered conservative for human racers. That suggests there's plenty of work left to do before this circuit can fulfill its true promise: Going faster than a human driver could.

But the test was still a win for technical reasons. Because Goodwood is lined with trees, Robocar couldn't rely on its GPS sensors. The other sensors capably picked up the slack, as intended, and the car completed the course without a hitch.

You can get a 360 view of the lap in the embedded video up top.

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