November 27, 2015 / 12:20 PM / 3 years ago

Electric series plans driverless championship

(Reuters) - The world’s first electric car racing series is planning to add a driverless championship in 2016-17 as part of its support package.

Formula E, now in its second season, said in a statement on Friday that the new ‘Roborace’ series would be developed in partnership with investment company Kinetik.

The aim was to “provide a competitive platform for the autonomous driving solutions that are now being developed by many large industrial automotive and technology players as well as top tech universities.”

Formula E’s current championship started in October and runs to July next year, meaning any new series would be part of their third season.

The plan would be for Roborace to take place before each Formula E round, using the same circuits in major cities worldwide with 10 teams each fielding two driverless cars.

Races would last for one hour and all teams will have the same cars, competing “using real-time computing algorithms and AI (artificial intelligence) technologies.”

One of the teams will be organized as a crowd-sourced community team which organizers said would be open to software and technology experts and enthusiasts.

Formula E chief executive Alejandro Agag said Roborace would be “one of the most cutting-edge sporting events in history.”

“Roborace is an open challenge to the most innovative scientific and technology-focused companies in the world,” he added.

Traditional automakers, especially premium brands such as Mercedes-Benz and Audi who are winners in conventional series like Formula One and sportscars, are already implementing advanced driver assistance systems on their cars.

In 2013 a Mercedes-Benz S-class limousine drove between Mannheim and Pforzheim without driver input.

Industry newcomers Tesla Motors, as well as tech giants Apple and Google, are also developing self-driving cars.

The current 10 round Formula E championship includes a race in Long Beach, California, with other venues including Beijing, Berlin, Moscow, Mexico City, Paris and London.

Carmakers BMW, Audi, Renault and Citroen are already involved with Formula E teams.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin in Abu Dhabi, editing by Justin Palmer

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