I’m sitting here watching the video uploaded by Roborace showing their prototype race car they call DevBot making a full lap at the Berlin Street Circuit, and honestly I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, it’s a monumental achievement in regards to the technology and it brings us one step closer to “the future,” for lack of better words. But then the moto enthusiast in me has all sorts of red flags going off for a variety of reasons. Most notably, is this the first step towards the end of motorsports as we know it? And unfortunately only time will tell, but there’s no denying that it’s not completely outside the realm of possibilities.
When I first learned about the company Roborace and the race cars they were developing for the self-driving racing series. I had a similar reaction. Although at the time it was still a bit far fetched and unintentionally it fell into the “I’ll believe it when I see it” category. But now it’s here and we see it happening right before our eyes.
While it is impressive what the DevBot can do, it’s still a long way from matching the pace of a highly skilled professional driver. As you watch the in-car video, you’ll notice things like DevBot completely misses the racing line at multiple points along the track. It’s also missing the apex of almost every corner. And maybe most importantly, you’ll hear it let off and brake much sooner than it needs to. Those three things add up to an enormous difference when it comes to lap times, which is good because the last thing I want to see is autonomous vehicles entering any races. It’s somewhat of a catch 22 because in my opinion, the only way this turns out to be something cool is if the cars are significantly faster than what a human could do. But that would also be one of the reasons it potentially could take over motorsports as we know it. Only time will tell I guess.