Robocar to attempt first self-driving hill climb at Goodwood Festival of Speed

[Credit: Roborace]

Robocar, an autonomous purpose-built race car driven by an AI system, will soon be taking on its biggest challenge yet — the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed, which is set to be held this coming July 12-15 in West Sussex, England. In the event, Robocar would have to traverse the iconic hill climb’s 1.16-mile track on its own, using only its array of advanced sensors and AI to help it finish the challenging run.

Roborace, the company behind the creation of Robocar, had already proven that its autonomous driving technology could drive a high-speed vehicle around a race track. Roborace also believes that Robocar is equipped with just the right amount of tech to give it a good fighting chance to not only finish the hill climb event, but do so with authority.

Robocar is futuristic, and it definitely looks the part. The vehicle is designed by Daniel Simon, the man behind the designs of vehicles in blockbuster movies like Tron: Legacy and Oblivion. As featured in a recent video on Roborace’s official YouTube channel, Robocar is equipped with a variety of sensors to help it accomplish its task, including GPS, radar, LiDAR, ultrasonic sensors, and machine vision cameras that collect data around the car.

Robocar’s suite of sensors. [Credit: Roborace]

The vehicle’s tech extends to its interior, with Robocar being equipped with four 135 kW electric motors that produce 500 hp, as well as a 58 kWh battery. Powered by NVIDIA Drive PX 2 processors, the vehicle is capable of hitting speeds of up to 199 mph (320 kph). Robocar is also operated by an AI system provided by Arrival that decides how fast the car must go and how it should tackle the conditions of the track.

All this tech has to come together on July 12. Robocar, after all, would be the first autonomous race car to attempt the run, and Rod Chong, deputy CEO of Roborace, expects the vehicle to attract a lot of attention when it shows up to the event.

“We’re pretty sure when the car appears, people will freak out. We aren’t sleeping very well right now,” he said.

Roborace expects Robocar to have some challenges during the hill climb event, considering that the trees in the track are bound to block the GPS satellite GPS signals for the vehicle, which could compromise the car’s capability to map its position accurately. In order to get around this problem, Roborace developers have written a custom software for the event, which uses Robocar’s LiDAR sensors for real-time environment perception. The Roborace team also plans to run the autonomous car every morning during the Festival of Speed before the official events begin, in order to allow Robocar to scan the track and account for objects that could be different from the day before.

Chong stated that Roborace is not really looking to set any records in the Goodwood Festival of Speed this year. Instead, the team would be happy if Robocar can simply finish all three days of the event without any issues. Nevertheless, the deputy CEO noted that ultimately, they would like Robocar to have a good run with a good level of speed.

“We want to run to a good level of speed—it’ll be visually exciting, believe me,” he said.

The founder of the Goodwood Festival of Speed, Charles Gordon-Lennox, the Duke of Richmond, however, is quite excited about the prospect of Robocar driving itself through his estate’s race track in high speeds.

“I can’t think of a more exciting way to celebrate our Silver Jubilee than to have Roborace attempt the first autonomous race car run up the hill. Roborace plays an important role in the future of mobility, challenging public perceptions and providing a platform to advance new technologies. This makes them the perfect partner to undertake this significant feat,” he said.

Here’s a brief video on the tech inside Robocar.

Robocar to attempt first self-driving hill climb at Goodwood Festival of Speed
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