For the second year in a row, Roborace will be in attendance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed

After successfully running the Robocar up the Goodwood Festival of Speed’s hill climb last year, Roborace is returning to the scene of one of its greatest public triumphs, and it’s bringing along a new developmental prototype with it. The Roborace DevBot 2.0 isn’t an entirely different model than the Robocar; it’s more of a second-generation evolution of the model that tackled the run up Lord March’s driveway a year ago. The 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed starts tomorrow, July 4, and will run until Sunday, July 7. In the event you see a futuristic, LMP1-inspired race car partaking in the festivities, be sure to give it a shout out. That’s Roborace’s DevBot 2.0.

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There once was a time when I thought the Roborace Robocar was nothing more than a gimmick, a novelty that was built on ambitious goals that would never be accomplished. I’m prepared to eat crow for that sentiment now because Roborace not only proved me wrong on a handful of occasions, it did so to the extent that I’m now rooting for its success, both in the short- and long-term. There are still no guarantees that Roborace will end up where it wants to go, but it has built itself to the point that its goals of developing an autonomous race car and an autonomous racing series aren’t pipe-dreams anymore.

We first caught a glimpse of the possibilities last year when Roborace brought the Robocar at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed. Mind you, it didn’t just bring the prototype there to sit on the Goodwood lawn; it actually raced the car up Lord March’s hill autonomously, successfully completing the course during an early morning test session. A 360 camera system mounted on the fuselage of Robocar captured the historic accomplishment, and you can still watch it today. Something tells me that video’s going to get a lot of hits in the coming days, too.

Wheeled Robots Will Race Up The Hill at Goodwood, But They Are Not Transformers
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But that was last year.

This year, Roborace is bringing an evolved version of Robocar to the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed.

It’s called the DevBot 2.0, and, unlike the Robocar, the DevBot 2.0 is more representative of the cars that will compete in the company’s Alpha and Beta racing seasons. At the moment, the DevBot 2.0 is in the middle of Roborace’s Alpha test season of racing, which includes a stop at the Goodwood Festival of Speed to showcase how far Roborace has come in the development of the world’s first fully autonomous race car.

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Somewhat ironic, though, is the fact that the DevBot 2.0 isn’t an exclusive self-driving car the way Robocar was. There’s a human element to DevBot 2.0’s racing makeup, something Roborace CEO Lucas di Grassi wanted to include to show the difference between the car racing autonomously and a car racing with a human driver behind the wheel. Di Grassi’s goal, it seems, is to create a racing environment where actual races include different portions, including a portion of traditional racing with drivers in place and a part that’s exclusively autonomous. Whether that goal is within reach is another question entirely, but give credit to Di Grassi and his team at Roborace for at least working to see that vision through.

Wheeled Robots Will Race Up The Hill at Goodwood, But They Are Not Transformers
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I’m not personally at the point where I can emphatically call Roborace as building blocks towards the future of motor racing, but it’s hard not to ignore what it has accomplished so far. In fact, there are already three DevBot 2.0 race cars that exist, each representing the three teams competing in the limited Season Alpha races this year. One team, Arrival, is actually a self-driving car technology company that was largely responsible for developing the autonomous software that Roborace used on Robocar last year. It’s reassuring to know that Arrival is still well-entrenched in the development of the DevBot 2.0 race cars. The other two teams, the TUM Department of Mechanical Engineering under the Technical University of Munich and the University of Pisa, are also heavily involved in the project.

Each institution is focused on advancing software development that will allow for full Level-5 autonomous driving in the confines of a race track, a far more difficult task than any of us can imagine given the complex and unique surroundings of each race track all over the world.

The Goodwood hill climb, for example, is surrounded by walls, trees, and bales of hay, making it difficult to use traditional GPS when the race car is running autonomously. This represents one of a series of complex and sophisticated challenges the company and its partners still need to address before Roborace can achieve its goal of fielding a fully functional, fully autonomous race car.

Wheeled Robots Will Race Up The Hill at Goodwood, But They Are Not Transformers
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I’m hoping that these developments push forward because I want to see Roborace actually succeed in its goal. There are promising signs that we could end up in a future where autonomous racing takes up a significant chunk of space in the sport, and, if it does, we can look at Roborace as one of the pioneers that spearheaded that mission. For now, though, our sights are set on seeing Roborace’s DevBot 2.0 tackle the Lord March’s hill climb at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this weekend. If the success of its predecessor is any indication, DevBot 2.0 should have no problem completing the course, proving that the future of motor racing may be closer to becoming reality than we think.

Further reading

2019 Roborace DevBot 2.0
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Read our full review on the 2019 Roborace DevBot 2.0.

Roborace Shows Us A Glimpse Of The Future With Unveiling of DevBot Autonomous Race Car
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Roborace Shows Us A Glimpse Of The Future With Unveiling of DevBot Autonomous Race Car

Roborace DevBot Completes Goodwood Hillclimb without a Driver (Video)
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Roborace DevBot Completes Goodwood Hillclimb without a Driver

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