Roborace: Autonomous race series won’t be fully-autonomous to start

That’s right, there’ll be drivers involved too. But they won’t be racing the entire time.

Roborace has been in the works for a while now, promising to revolutionise racing by removing the driver. Turns out, the revolution won’t happen overnight though, with the series CEO revealing season one will involve a combination of conventional and autonomous racing.

Speaking with Motosport.com, CEO Lucas di Grassi revealed ‘Season Alpha’ for Roborace won’t be run with the futuristic-looking RoboRacer we were promised – instead, the cars will be a variation of the DevBot prototype that’s lapped Hong Kong and crashed in Buenos Aires.

Fewer than 10 cars will line up for the first season in the second quarter of next year, dubbed Season Alpha, with humans to drive for part of the race before handing over to artificial intelligence.

Two teams have reportedly signed on, with the calendar set for release at the end of this year. Roborace will maintain the DevBot 2.0 cars and coordinate the logistics, with teams only responsible for developing their self-driving software in an attempt to keep costs down.

“The impression of a driver driving and then jumping out much better exemplifies the difference between human and autonomous driving,” di Grassi explained.

“Most importantly, I think motorsport has to have a human component. It’s always been about human and machine.”

After the 2019 (Season Alpha) and 2020 (Season Beta) calendars are complete, the category will undergo its “full release” in 2021.

Even then, the car will be more like “the son of RoboRacer and DevBot” than a pure translation of the stunning initial concept at the top of our story. When it’s finally ready, di Grassi pictures the finished car have around 1000kW of power from four electric motors.