When automakers began testing their autonomous cars I had this thought that maybe in a few years we won’t get to drive our cars anymore. And, while that could improve traffic and make cars safer, it would be a sad day for enthusiasts. The next thought that sent shivers down my spine was that self-driving cars could also find their way on the race track, ultimately ruining several motorsport series I still enjoy. Well, believe it or not, autonomous racing is less than a year away from actually happening.

According to Autocar, a new racing series dubbed Roborace will be launched in 2016 as a support series for the Formula E Championship. But, unlike Formula E, Roborace will feature driverless cars. The events will take place prior to regular Formula E races and will use the same circuits. Ten teams will participate in the first season, one of which will will be a crowd-sourced and community-funded squad that will use applications from software developers and technology experts.

“Roborace is an open challenge to the most innovative scientific and technology-focused companies in the world. It is very exciting to create a platform for them to showcase what they are capable of, and I believe there is great potential for us to unearth the next big idea through the unique crowd-sourced contest,” said Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E.

More details will be announced early next year. If the current Formula E season is any indication, the Roborace series should kick off in October 2016.

Note: Audi RS7 Piloted Driving Concept pictured here.

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Why it matters

Granted, I was a bit dramatic at the beginning of this article, but motorsport enthusiasts have no reason to panic. Driver-operated race cars are here to stay for a very long time, as Roborace is just an experiment for now. Considering that most technologies found in road cars are developed on the track, Roborace is actually a good idea that could help develop mass-produced autonomous vehicles for both public and commercial use.

With rules stating that all cars will look identical and teams will compete using real-time computing algorithms and artificial intelligence, Roborace will most likely spawn an array of systems that will make autonomous vehicles not only perform better, but safer too. With at least ten cars on the grid, those computers behind the wheel have to be really smart to avoid collisions, which will surely benefit production, road-going vehicles in the future.

It will be interesting to see how this goes, although the lack of human drivers will likely make the series a bit too boring to watch.

Source: AutoCar

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