Lucas Di Grassi says human drivers are the real competitors for Roborace

TechCrunch | 11/29/2018 | Staff
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As Roborace accelerates its plans to build an autonomous racing league, the company is finding that its toughest competition are still human drivers.

In this version of the John Henry story, the humans clearly are still winning, but the robots are catching up.

Singularity - Event - Racing - Car - Racing

“We’re going to call it a singularity event when an autonomous racing car is faster than any racing driver,” says Lucas Di Grassi, Roborace’s chief executive and one of the world’s best Formula One racecar drivers. “We started the year 20% slower and we are now 6% slower.”

For the company’s long-term vision, the cars need to be better than any human, because part of the company’s pitch is to be the proving ground for autonomous technologies and a platform to put automakers’ best innovations through their paces in extreme conditions.

Car - Level - Layer - Trust - Roads

“We think when the car reaches a level that is better than any human this will create a layer of trust on the roads,” says Di Grassi.

It’s a vision that has attracted the attention of some of the world’s biggest companies. Earlier this week, Amazon announced its own initiative for autonomous racing cars. And if Amazon is interested, you can be sure other large technology companies are also angling for a pole position in this proving ground for technology’s latest moonshot.

Amazon - Version - Race - Cars - Roborace

Amazon’s version of autonomous race cars are smaller than Roborace’s full-sized vehicles — and at $399 are far cheaper than the $1 million vehicles that Roborace is planning on putting on tracks.

Beyond the potential corporate competitors, the company’s human competition is more than just a technical obstacle for Roborace. It’s also a critical unknown when it comes to predicting whether anyone actually will want to watch the races.

Roborace - Audience - Races - Element - Risk

When asked whether he thinks Roborace can find an audience for races that are divorced of any element of human risk or...
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