Roborace is one of the most exciting entries on the motorsport circuit. A global championship for autonomous electric-powered cars, the series is now in Season Beta, and everything seems to be going really well… except for this one car at the season opener.
That is the SIT Acronis Autonomous, driving straight into a wall from the start line.
The fascinating thing about Roborace, compared to the notoriously-secretive motorsport world at large, is that the teams involved are so excited about their projects that they can't keep all their information to themselves – and they're all massive nerds.
Exhibit A: Following the SIT Autonomous crash, one of the team's engineers took to Reddit to explain exactly what happened after the human-controlled initialisation lap.
When our car was given a permission to drive, the acceleration command went as normal but the steering was locked to the right. We are looking at the log values and can see that our controller was trying to steer the car back to the left, but the car did not execute the steering command due to a steering lock. The desired trajectory was also good, the car definitely did not plan to go into the wall.
While the custom-built SIT Autonomous car was obviously not up for another race, the team returned to the track for Round 2 in the default Roborace vehicle DevBot 2.0, and finished in second place.
Rather than sticking a bunch of robot cars all on the track at the same time and hoping for the best, Roborace events are more like traditional sprint races or time trials, with each car recording solo laps. This turned out to be for the best, when another team – Autonomous Racing Graz – had to cut its race short after the car suffered positioning issues and effectively got lost on the track.
Since its inception in 2016, Roborace has been largely a proof-of-concept rather than a "real" motorsport. It has been shown off in exhibition races at a number of FIA Formula E events, as well as at Britain's acclaimed Goodwood Festival of Speed. Flagship vehicle Robocar, designed by "automotive futurist" Daniel Simon (who also designed the vehicles for Tron: Legacy), holds the Guinness World Record for Fastest Autonomous Car, hitting a top speed of 282.42km/h at a test field in Yorkshire.
This sort of "extremely rare" error is an incredible learning tool, not just for robotic race cars, but for autonomous driving as a whole. But it will never stop being funny to watch a very expensive car drive itself into a wall.
Join the newsletter to receive the latest updates in your inbox.