Roborace is a driverless car racing championship that is set to start in the near future. But before Robocar takes to the track in competitive races, the championship has to test the autonomous electric vehicle and technology. Enter DevBot. The vehicle is the ugly duckling driverless prototype being used to develop and test the new driverless championships’ racecraft and technology.
Kinetik, the VC behind autonomous racing car championship Roborace, revealed images of its prototype driverless car in March 2016. The sleek, futuristic self-driving racing car was designed by Daniel Simon best known for his work in movies such as Tron:Legacy, Oblivion and Captain America.
By contrast, DevBot looks nothing like the highly acclaimed Dan Simon-designed car however. For starters, as a test vehicle, DevBot still features a cockpit for a human driver, and the prototype looks more like a shell of a car, which in essence is what it is.
DevBot: Blazing a Trail for Robocar
But DevBot has a serious job to do, and so far has been doing it well. The development car is based on a Le Mans prototype racer that does not have front or rear bodywork but is fitted with Robocar’s all-electric powertrain, sensors, computation systems and communication technology as the Robocar.
As Roborace works out the kinks of having completely autonomous cars race each other, they have been using the prototype to carry out their tests. The machine is being used to allow Kinetik and teams to experience how the hardware handles as well as develop their software, which is what will set the teams apart.
This is what Kinetik has to say about DevBot:
“The primary purpose of the DevBot is to allow teams to develop their software and experience the hardware that will be used on the ‘Robocar’, . . .
. . . Unlike the Robocar the DevBot has a cabin that can be driven by a human or a computer allowing teams to fully understand how the car thinks and feels on a racetrack alongside the comprehensive real-time data.”
DevBot takes to the Track
So far the technology has come on in leaps and bounds. DevBot’s first track outing was at Donington Park circuit in England where the prototype managed to complete one lap without a driver.
Fast forward to a few weeks in Marrakech for that city’s edition of the Formula E race and DevBot was all set for a very public outing. Roborace races will be held as part of curtain raiser events on official Formula E weekends, with 10 cars and teams set to take part in the championship. And so it was in Marrakech, the Roborace Car prototype was scheduled to make its first public appearance and trial run.
By the end of the test, DevBot had managed to complete 12 full laps without a driver in its cockpit. The prototype managed to complete 10 flying laps, an outlap, and an inlap. The car even managed to respect pitlane speed restrictions on its own. Once on the track, the car is designed to learn the track and increase its speed as it gets used to it.
The Future of Auto Racing is Now
Eventually the cars will be able to achieve speeds of up to 190 mph or more when the races are in full swing. Currently, Devbot is scheduled for further tests at Formula E circuits around the world, including Paris, Berlin, and New York.
When the racing championship begins, 10 Roborace teams will compete against each other using the the same Robocars but different algorithms. Robo race teams will field two cars each and are made up of technology and automotive companies, as well as motorsport and university-based teams. One entrant will be a crowdsourced team that will be given an opportunity to line up against the more established concerns.
When that finally happens, the ugly duckling DevBot should look a bit more like the beautiful looking swan Robocar below: