A speedy self-driving race car, the Dallara Super Formula SF23, has big dreams of replacing famous drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. This car uses advanced artificial intelligence (AI) to navigate and pass its opponents on famous racetracks worldwide.
Recently, the Italian carmaker unveiled this driverless car at a tech conference in Dubai. It’s set to compete in the first-ever autonomous car race next April at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. Instead of relying on human drivers, ten teams of engineers will compete to create the smartest computer program to win a £1.85 million prize.
Previous self-driving races could only have two cars at a time due to technology limits. But the new A2RL racing series plans to allow more, depending on safety concerns. The car itself, weighing 690kg, has cameras all around, GPS to know its location, radar and LiDAR sensors to spot obstacles and other cars, and a computer in place of a driver to control everything.
The computer can also monitor things like fuel, tire pressure, and wear. It uses a clever algorithm to instantly process data and drive the car, learning how to go faster with each lap. The focus has shifted from driver skills to the technology and programming that makes these cars zoom around tricky tracks.
Dr Tom McCarthy, executive director at ASPIRE, which is running the race, said they had yet to test the car against a human driver due to safety issues – but it would likely beat them as the computer’s reaction times would be quicker.
He said: ‘The focus isn’t on the driver’s skill now; it’s about the technology, programming, and machine learning algorithms that allow these vehicles to navigate intricate racetracks at breakneck speeds.’Each of the ten teams gets the same car but can tweak the software to make it as fast as possible. While researchers have been working on self-driving racing cars for a while, this is the first time many will race at once
Back in 2015, scientists at Stanford University made a speedy Audi TTS called ‘Shelley’ that beat a human driver by 0.4 seconds in testing. That same year, ‘Roborace’ launched as the first global championship for self-driving cars. In 2019, it set a Guinness World Record for the fastest autonomous car, reaching 175mph, which is slightly slower than the Dallara SF23.
The A2RL race aims to prove that self-driving cars can be safe even at high speeds, showing how quick and skilled they are in avoiding crashes.
Faisal Al Bannai, the Secretary General of ASPIRE’s parent company, ATRC, believes that bringing together scientists and coding experts in an extreme sports setting helps test these technologies on the racetrack, ensuring they’re safe for our roads.