No one was hurt.
No matter the marketing, fully self-driving vehicles do not exist and likely won’t exist en masse for several more years. Navigating jammed-packed highways, narrow side streets, and quiet tree-lined neighborhoods with perfection is hard enough on a clear, sunny day. Add snow, rain, and erratic drivers, and you’ll begin to see the monumental task that lies ahead for automakers. It’s even a challenge for racing teams looking to take autonomy to the track.
A new video of today’s Roborace event, a sister series to Formula E, shows one autonomous race car having a very bad start. The short clip shows the car, part of the SIT Acronis Autonomous racing team, at a stop before beginning to take off, except it doesn’t drive straight, following the sweeping curve. Instead, it turns right and drives directly into the wall with force. A red piece of the car’s exterior is visible, flying through the air due to the impact. Ouch.
It wasn’t the only car having trouble. Another video shows a different race car coming around the sweeping curve, though it fails to properly navigate it. It starts to drive into the grass, but the car attempts to correct itself, causing the rear end to lose grip and spin around. It’s not as dramatic as the first crash, though it is a reminder about how far autonomous race cars have to go. You can watch the full event here on Twitch. The crash happens at 1:19:30.
Racing has often served as a testbed for new automotive technologies. Disc brakes, semi-automatic gearboxes, carbon fiber, and more got tried and tested on the race track before finding their way into everyday consumer vehicles. You’d think developing autonomous race cars would be easy, but no. Not only do the cars have to navigate a race track, but they also have to do it at very high speeds, which makes split-second decision making dangerous and difficult. The STI Acronis car was at a stop before it drove into the wall. Now imagine adding other race cars to the mix.