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World’s first self-driving car race ends in a crash

Luke Johnson

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Roborace Devbot

It’s the punchline that surely everyone could see coming, but the world’s first self-driving car race really has ended in a crash.

The race, a first to be carried out on a professional racetrack, was held in Buenos Aires over the weekend and saw two autonomous vehicles duke it out for a place in the history books.

A spin off event to the Formula E ePrix series, the debut Roborace saw two test vehicles dubbed DevBots take to the track at speeds up to 115mph. Despite not having a driver at the helm, however, the futuristic cars still suffered an accident caused by pushing too hard through one of the turns.

Bringing the race to an end, Devbot 2 took a corner too quickly and crashed. With the autonomous machine unable to complete the race, it left its garage mate and rival, Devbot 1, to take the inaugural self-driving race crown.

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Roborace

Highlighting the fledgling nature of self-driving car tech, the accident has shown there’s still a lot of work to do before driverless cars are the foolproof, safety machines we’ve all been led to believe they’re capable of becoming.

Crash aside, however, the race proved a significant milestone in the development of driverless cars, with the two race machines managing to complete multiple high-speed race laps and even dodge a stray dog that wandered onto the track.

Ultimately, however, it ended in a failure of the technology we’ve long been told will bring an end to road traffic accidents on our public streets.

Playing down the issue, the Roborace team highlighted the benefits of being able to conduct such tests without the need for dedicated drivers.

“Devbot 2 while pushing the boundaries of AI had a racing incident on track, leaving Devbot 1 to win. No drivers were harmed though,” the race series tweeted before throwing in a winking emoji.

An early test, Roborace is confident the accident won’t slow the development of the fledgling race series.

The plan is to have a global championship with teams all competing with the same car designs. The differences will come in with the bespoke software each team writes to pilot the machines. It’s an idea that’s split opinion among motorsport fans.

While some have claimed it will allow for faster, more exciting racing without the risk of human injury, others have suggested it’s not really racing if human drivers aren’t behind the wheel pushing not only their own limits, but the limits of the cars themselves.

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Would you pay to watch a self-driving car race? Let us know in the comments below.

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