The World's First Self-Driving Car Race Ends With a Crash


Not content with driving cars for us, it seems computers have now also mastered the art of crashing cars for us. Roborace, the world’s first autonomous car championship, held its first self-driving car race on Saturday on the streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Everything started off fine, with two developer cars whizzing round the Formula E ePrix track, until DevBot 2 — the self-driving car — got a bit overzealous on one of the turns and collided with a barrier.

Fortunately, nobody was injured. In typical auto races, you’d have to deal with the conflict of wanting to see some cool car crashes, but not wanting anyone to get hurt in the process. Roborace totally removes that ethical conundrum from the process: cars will crash, it’s gonna look cool when it happens, and no human drivers will get hurt in the process.

Roborace is unique in this respect, as the competitors are trying to perfect self-driving car software more than anything else. Teams are expected to compete in races during the 2016-2017 Formula E season, but all of the cars will be exactly the same. The DevBots in Saturday’s race offer a glimpse at what the final Robocar will look like, and the teams will have to depend on their artificial intelligence prowess to develop driving software that gives their car the edge.

“This is a historic moment for Roborace and for the future of autonomous vehicle development,” Denis Sverdlov, CEO of Roborace, said in a statement.

DevBot 1 in action.


The DevBot cars were kitted out in colors echoing Argentinian soccer teams, with DevBot 1 wearing River Plate’s colors and DevBot 2 wearing the Boca Juniors colors. Both cars ran at speeds reaching around 115 miles per hour, a rather leisurely pace compared to other Formula E cars, but this was the first-ever Roborace. You can see the pair racing round the track in the video below:

There were even some obstacles to contend with:

Until it all came to an end moments later:

Where next for Roborace? On February 27, Sverdlov will be speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where the team is expected to unveil the Robocar. On stage with him will be the car’s designer, futurist Daniel Simon. He’s designed futuristic cars for the likes of Tron: Legacy and Captain America, and based on pre-released renderings, it looks like the Robocar will be no exception:

Next week can’t come soon enough.