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Roborace Could ‘Bring Back’ Drivers From the Past

Roborace could let teams echo driving styles of former F1 greats in its autonomous series…

Photo: Roborace

Roborace could use data from historic motorsport seasons to recreate the driving traits of past Formula 1 champions in its autonomous car races.

Chief strategy officer Bryn Balcombe told e-racing365 that data from F1 outfits could be processed by Roborace teams to generate driverless cars that mimic the styles of past racers, such as three-time champion Ayrton Senna.

He said that reincarnating old heroes would inject an element of ‘human’ personality into the competition, which is set to become the world’s first autonomous racing series.

Roborace made its UK public debut at last weekend’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, where the Robocar made the first fully autonomous ascent of the famous 1.16-mile hillclimb.

“One thing we get asked is can we replicate an existing human driver or a historic human driver,” said Balcombe.

“So, can you put Lewis Hamilton in the simulator and then take that simulator data and then use that to create an AI version of Lewis Hamilton that is then the driver of the car?

“Or even the further extent of can Ayrton Senna come back, as a future AI driver?

“If you look at the data McLaren have about Senna’s driving history, and some of what Williams have as well – you could take that and create what would be a realistic representation of Senna and his driving style.”

Balcombe believes Roborace can be a meeting point between the past, present and future forms of motorsport.

In addition to comparing the historic and modern greats, the software could also be used to see how eSports drivers would fare in a mixed competition environment.

“I think it’s fascinating because you can do exactly the same thing for sim racers,” he said.

“You can tap into the eSports market that’s out there and create a replica of an eSports racer, and put them in the car.

“You have the current generation of drivers, you have the eSports generation, and you have the historic generation, all on the track. They’re all different personalities.”

“The Public Will See Personality”

Balcombe reckons this approach will enable Roborace spectators to associate themselves with the participants, despite the absence of a human driver.

He explained that teams will be able to tweak their cars’ driving styles to effuse the ‘racing personalities’ that are seen in motorsport today.

“When you watch Formula 1, you can’t actually see the face of the driver,” he said.

“The way racing drivers express themselves is by how the vehicle is controlled. When you watch a tennis player, it’s much easier to see their expressions and also the way that they move.

“With a Formula 1 driver, you see it through the way they control their vehicle and the way they interact with another driver. From that, you work out whether they’re aggressive or passive.

“We think the software that’s inside these vehicles will be differentiated. It will be produced by different teams and they will put different weights in there about how aggressive to be or not, or how hard to push.

“From that, the public will see personality. They’ll connect with one team or another team, based on the actions of the vehicle. That’s one way of doing it.”

Roborace is set to continue private testing of the Robocar package before announcing its next public demonstration later this year.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and various electric racing series.



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    July 22, 2018 at 5:12 pm

    They keep trying but has anyone said they want this? It seems like an exercise to purely puff out their chest and there are MUCH more interesting competitions that already do this. The DARPA competition is much more interesting and useful in real life than preprogrammed fake drivers and pre-determined outcomes. Electric racing is fine but this and drone racing are just a waste of time and bandwidth.

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      July 23, 2018 at 1:13 pm

      DARPA CHallenge was a series of races (three) that ended a decade ago. Roborace will take from there…

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    Mike S

    July 22, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    Gimic phase early it seems like success

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    July 23, 2018 at 12:04 pm

    So the whole premise to this series is to eliminate the driver aspect from the series now you want to inject driver “personality” into the cars? I see the potential here, but it complete counter argues the whole reason this series exists. Plus the organizers and marshals can just pull the plug on one car that is showing good performance to create the outcome they want. They do this as much as they can with officiating now, imagine when they will be able to preemptively do it during the event. The only spin you can have on this driver personality idea that would have any interest to me is to make it like a fantasy sport type. Each team has the option to use the same “driver list”, they choose which drivers for each race and can only use that driver once. You can test all drivers all weekend, but whichever driver you program to participate in Quali is the program you need to use for the race. You can do it like tire selection in F1 now where they choose 3 different drivers to take each weekend with them. Could add some strategy fun to it, but if the performance is anything like it was at Goodwood or the sneak peeks we’ve seen this will be as exciting as watching paint dry.

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    July 23, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    never watched any motor race because the drivers but because the cars – as an engineer by formation do love them!
    eager for Roborace to take off…

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      Sam Smith

      July 26, 2018 at 5:32 am

      It is a fascinating prospect. The work they have done is remarkable and so much more potential to come.

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    July 23, 2018 at 2:24 pm

    Do believe that Roborace has the potential to become the most important motor-race event in the whole world. Without the human element behind the wheel, the cars can be as fast as the technologies do allow them to be and do race as harder as we never saw before because no danger to a human driver will happen in case of a collision. The championship will prove to be disruptive in many areas…

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