Autonomous cars get their own day at the track

thunderhill raceway to host track day autonomous cars 2015 audi rs 7 piloted driving prototype robby at sonoma 011
Track days are a great way for owners of sporty cars to wring them out in a safe, controlled, environment. But what happens if all of the sporty cars start driving themselves?

We’ll find out next month, when the first track day for autonomous cars is scheduled to take place. It will be held at California’s Thunderhill Raceway May 28 and 29, reports Ars Technica. The event is being organized by Joshua Schachter, who actually races in the popular Spec Miata category, but is eager to give self-driving cars some track time as well.

Schachter wants to make the track day as inclusive as possible. It’s open not just to self-driving cars, but to companies and researchers that want to test sensors and other equipment. Schachter plans to arrange for vehicles to be used as test beds for participants that don’t bring their own rides. So far 15 teams have signed up, and instead of big car companies, most are smaller outfits and startups.

While autonomous cars have driven on racetracks before, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen when a fleet of them get together. As with conventional track days, the cars won’t race; the track time will be for testing only, and the cars will probably need it. Schachter told Ars Technica that he doesn’t expect any of the entrants to complete an autonomous lap at the first event.

Track testing has been an important part of the development process for carmakers almost since the car was invented. It not only helps engineers tune things like ride and handling, but also serves as a form of stress testing. In the case of autonomous cars, it can also demonstrate that the technology can handle extreme situations. That’s part of that reason why a pair of self-driving Audi RS 7 prototypes went on a barnstorming tour of tracks last year, even going head-to-head with professional human drivers.

While the track day is non-competitive, there is some interest in turning self-driving cars into full-on race cars. Formula E plans to launch a series for autonomous cars called Roborace sometime in the near future, complete with specially-designed cars.

Product Review

Bigger battery and folding top add appeal, but BMW’s i8 remains ultra-niche

Want a high-performance vehicle that's more than just a frightening driving experience? Desire the look and feel of a sports car with the road manners of a luxury commuter? The BMW i8 is for you.
Emerging Tech

With CabinSense, cars will soon know who’s riding in them and respond accordingly

What if your car could know who's riding in it and customize the entertainment and safety options accordingly? That’s what's promised by the new CabinSense in-car Occupancy Monitoring System.
Cars

Maserati is prepared to fight for a piece of the electrified supercar segment

The Alfieri concept Maserati shown in 2014 is on track for production. It will offer three drivetrain options, including hybrid and electric variants, and it will take just two seconds to reach 60 mph from a stop in its quickest…
Outdoors

Uber’s bikesharing service is eating into its regular business

A bikesharing service acquired by Uber nearly a year ago is causing riders to take fewer car journeys with the company. It is, however, part of the plan as Uber looks to offer an integrated mobility platform for cities.
Cars

Volkswagen’s hot-rodded T-Roc R is ready to shred its tires to confetti

Volkswagen released a teaser sketch to preview a hot-rodded SUV named T-Roc R. Insiders suggest it will be closely related to the mighty Golf R, meaning it will pack a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at about 300…
Cars

Honda’s Urban EV is shaping up to be a high-tech, high-style electric city car

Honda will travel to the 2019 Geneva Auto Show to unveil a close-to-production prototype that previews an adorable, city-friendly electric car. The Urban EV will offer about 155 miles of range, and its interior is a tech lover's dream come…
Product Review

The 2020 Volvo V60 Cross Country is a do-it-all Swedish army knife

Volvo laced up its smallest station wagon in hiking clothes to create the V60 Cross Country. It's a lifted, all-wheel drive wagon that laughs at icy roads while coddling its occupants. We travel to Sweden to try it out.
Cars

Audi’s Geneva-bound Q4 E-Tron concept will give us a glimpse of the future

Audi has released a trio of teaser sketches to preview the Q4 E-Tron concept. Scheduled to make its debut at the 2019 Geneva Auto Show, the design study takes the form of an electric SUV with a muscular design and a tech-filled interior.
Cars

Tesla’s Dog Mode lets good Samaritans know that Fido’s A-OK

Tesla's latest over-the-air software update adds two features called Sentry Mode and Dog Mode. Sentry Mode records footage and alerts the owner if someone breaks in, while Dog Mode runs the A/C so owners can safely keep their dogs in their…
Cars

Rock out in the carpool lane with Singing Machine’s Carpool Karaoke microphone

Carpool Karaoke fans can count down the days till summer. That's when Singing Machine's Carpool Karaoke microphone will be available. Connect the Carpool Karaoke Mic to your car radio to make your next road trip a mobile karaoke party.
Cars

Bentley Bentayga Speed surpasses Lamborghini Urus as world’s fastest SUV

The Bentley Bentayga Speed has wrested the title of world's fastest SUV from its cousin, the Lamborghini Urus. But the Bentley is just 1 mph faster than the Lamborghini. It requires 626 horsepower to achieve that top speed.
Outdoors

General Motors cycles into a new market with its first-ever ebikes

When General Motors launched a public campaign last year to name its new ebike brand, many wondered if Bikey McBikeface might win out. But it didn't. Instead, it's called Arīv, and the two bikes are up for pre-order this week.
Cars

The Polestar 2, Sweden’s answer to the Tesla Model 3, begins taking shape

Volvo sister company Polestar has released a teaser image to give us our first look at the 2, its second model. Polestar tells us the 2 will arrive as a four-door fastback with a 400-hp electric powertrain and about 300 miles of range.
Cars

2020 Kia Soul and Soul EV continue to think inside the box

The 2020 Kia Soul is the third generation of Kia's boxy curiosity. The Soul maintains its signature look, but gets tech and powertrain upgrades. The all-electric Soul EV returns as well.