You know the Roborace championship that has been developed to be the world's first driverless motorsport? Well, it's made a slight last minute U-turn and will now in fact feature, you know - drivers. Or at least, partially, because a human will only drive for part of each race, before handing over to their AI teammate. This, of course, means the sport will trade the cockpit-less Robocar racer it had planned to use for the more conventional looking DevBot 2.0, an evolved version of the prototype it had been using in testing, with space for a sentient being inside.
The change in plans for the new championship have, according to Roborace CEO and one-time Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi, been instigated to emphasise the AI technology. He said "The impression of a driver driving and then jumping out much better exemplifies the difference between human and autonomous driving". He also admitted that "motorsport has to have a human component" because "it's always been about human and machine".
The new cars - which will be provided and maintained by the championship - will also be rear-wheel drive, as opposed to all-wheel drive like the original Robocar, although the model remains fully electric. DevBot 2.0 is planned for use in the first season of racing, which kicks off next year and has been coined Season Alpha (season two will be Beta) as a nod to the high-tech computing that's involved in the series. Each team competing, of which there are expected to be six or seven, will use the DevBot platform but with their own artificially intelligent driving solution, as well as their own human racing driver.
Following the first two seasons, the series plans to switch to a new car, based on the Robocar but including a cockpit so a driver can remain a feature of the race. Di Grassi expects this racer to have around 1000kW (1360hp) provided by four electric motors each powering their own wheel.