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The minds behind the unique Formula E racing series have announced a new category that will launch in the 2016/17 season: Roborace.

Perhaps inspired by Audi’s track-attacking RS 7 autonomous car, the new series will focus on driverless electric race cars, allowing companies to further test and develop technologies in the field.

Racing at speeds up to 300km/h, vehicles in the Roborace series will be mechanically identical, with teams expected to exploit their programming skills to develop driving software intelligent enough to beat their autonomous rivals.

It’s also expected that the vehicles will be able to skip the battery-swapping pit stops required in the regular Formula E series, with the absence of a human driver creating more room for additional batteries.

The vehicles will be of a similar size to the current Formula E cars, but, with no driver safety issues to consider, elements of their design will differ.

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Formula E, in partnership with investment firm Kinetik, has made the series open not just to racing teams, but any company or group involved in developing artificial intelligence. The class will also be open to existing Formula E teams.

“Most likely the teams backed by a car manufacturer will be interested. But it’s no secret companies like Google are developing autonomous cars as well,” Formula E chief Alejandro Agag told press in London today.

Roborace will form a support category for the Formula E series, with races to take place two hours before each round in the 2016/17 championship.

“We passionately believe that, in the future, all of the world’s vehicles will be assisted by AI and powered by electricity, thus improving the environment and road safety. Roborace is a celebration of revolutionary technology and innovation that humanity has achieved in that area so far,” RoboRace founder Denis Sverdlov said.

“It’s a global platform to show that robotic technologies and AI can co-exist with us in real life. Thus, anyone who is at the edge of this transformation now has a platform to show the advantages of their driverless solutions and this shall push the development of the technology.”

More details on the Roborace series will come in early 2016.




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