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This self-driving racing car could have done with a driver

No one ever said building an autonomous car would be easy.

While a number of companies have certainly made incredible progress with the technology over the last decade or so, some are clearly faring better than others.

Take this effort from the Acronis SIT Roborace team based at the Schaffhausen Institute of Technology in Switzerland.

As the driverless racing car was about to begin a time-trial contest during the first live broadcast of Roborace — a racing series for autonomous vehicles — the car veered off from a standing start and smashed straight into a wall.

“Oh no, the start has not gone to plan,” the commentator said as the driverless vehicle ended its race a little earlier than expected.

Roborace is the world first driver-less/autonomous motorsports category.

This is one of their first live-broadcasted events.

This was the second run.

It drove straight into a wall.

— Ryan (@dogryan100) October 29, 2020

Here’s the same accident viewed from inside the autonomous racing car:

WHATTT ???? It's live

— Roborace (@roborace) October 29, 2020

It’s not clear what went wrong. After all, there were no other cars on the track in Thruxton, England, nor were there any surprises like a running cat or wayward pedestrian suddenly appearing.

Still, it’s early days for Acronis SIT as it only entered the competition last month. With that in mind, the team is likely to learn a lot from Thursday’s mishap — hopefully enough to enable it to clear the starting grid next time around.

Roborace is described as “the world’s first autonomous competition for human and A.I. teams, using self-driving technology in immersive environments.” Competitors use the same electric drivetrains and chassis, with each team tasked with designing and incorporating its own autonomous technology into their vehicle.

Acronis SIT was one of four out of six teams that failed to complete the three-lap time-trial race on Thursday, suggesting other teams are also facing challenges with their technology.

Still, we do know that when an autonomous racing car gets going, it can really get going, as proved by “Robocar” last year when it hurtled into the record books with a speed of 175.49 mph — the fastest achieved by a self-driving car.

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Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
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