Autonomous racing could be developed to have races involving cars and motorbikes, according to Roborace chief strategy officer Bryn Balcombe.
Roborace has reportedly been in contact with Yamaha, which develops the Motobot autonomous rider, about running the two types of software simultaneously.
Balcombe told e-racing365 that the technology used by Motobot – which is an autonomous humanoid capable of controlling an unmodified bike – could be used to help develop the Robocar which uses LiDAR sensors to self-navigate through a course.
Roborace made its first run in over a year at the Goodwood Festival of Speed two weeks ago, where a Robocar made a landmark autonomous ascent of the famous 1.16-mile hillclimb.
Motobot was also present at Goodwood in a static capacity but has previously taken part in time trials against real-life opponents, including seven-time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi.
“We often talk about the potential to have different categories of racing on the track, a little bit like having MotoGP and Formula 1 take part at exactly the same time on the same tracks,” said Balcombe.
“We could do that with Robocar and Motobot. You could bring those two things to life in a competition environment, without the risk of human life – but still be able to develop the technology all around.”
Balcombe said Yamaha’s concept shares some of the goals of Roborace, which also aims to use its AI technology to help develop advanced driver assistance systems for the road.
“From a motorbike perspective, it’s really about giving the rider more situational awareness so they can make the right decisions while they’re riding,” he explained.
“Some of what we look at with the technology in Robocar is exactly the same. You can use it for autonomy, but you can also use it to augment and assist human performance.
“That’s what we’re really developing and that’s been banned in most other motorsports. We sit across a different divide, developing technology that can really drive safety on the roads in the future.
“Finding the right format of competition and the right partners to engage in that is kind of where we are at the moment.”
Helping Manufacturers Drive Augmentation
Roborace hopes that the AI technology it develops for racing will draw the interest of large automakers.
Balcombe explained that Roborace could appeal to OEMs looking to create systems where the driver is assisted by a form of autonomy, such as Porsche’s Innodrive which is found in the Panamera Sport.
The German manufacturer held a joint presentation with Roborace at Goodwood to explore connections between autonomous driving and the road industry.
“In Formula E, OEMs are engaging for electric powertrain development and communication around mobility and sustainability, which is a great message,” said Balcombe.
“For us, the message is slightly different. We’re focusing on safety on the roads, but through AI as a performance engineering tool.
“Porsche has an amazing system on the Panamera Sport. The AI software is doing the throttle and the brake, and the human is doing the steering.
“That’s two forms of intelligence in control of the vehicle in order to get performance, and that’s really where we see this competition format evolving into, developing that type of relationship.
“It’s not always about autonomy, which is what people perceive.”
Roborace is set to continue private testing of its Robocar package before announcing its next public outing later this year.
E-racing365 understands that runs involving more than one Robocar and further demonstrations involving a human opponent are being considered.