The inaugural Roborace season won't consist only of autonomous cars racing each other without drivers, after all. According to a Friday report from Motorsport.com, Roborace CEO Lucas di Grassi said the change is necessary for spectators.
Thus, Robocar will sit on the sidelines in favor of a new DevBot 2.0, which a human driver can pilot, but can also be operated in a self-driving mode. While DevBot 2.0 retains LMP-esque looks, Roborace made a few changes to the racer. The car is now rear-wheel drive rather than all-wheel drive, and the design and hardware have been updated.
The races in the inaugural season will support some Formula E events (as will Jaguar's I-Pace eTrophy one-make series). The race formula will see humans race the DevBot cars for the first half of each race, and the cars race in a self-driving mode for the second half.
Roborace Robocar self-driving race car
Di Grassi said the change to involve human racers was necessary to show spectators the difference between human racers and the autonomous technology. He admitted organizers changed their minds after Robocar was planned to do all of the racing. In a statement that seemed to conflict with the original intent of Roborace, he added, "I think motorsport has to have a human component. It’s always been about human and machine."
Each race will feature 10 cars or fewer on the starting grid, and the company will develop the software to ensure the cars can race autonomously. The company will also supply the hardware and maintain the cars, while the teams will tweak their own software. So far, two teams have signed up for the first season.
The DevBot 2.0 will be used for season one and two, to be called Alpha and Beta, and a new Robocar will be ready for 2021, which will be considered the first true season.
Although Robocar was unveiled in 2017 without a driver cockpit, the design will likely change. Roborace said it wants a human driver to have the ability to drive the car, and the next Robocar will be a mix of DevBot and the current Robocar.