The first AI Formula race, 8 laps took one hour

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Good news: Most of the AI cars have finished the race.

On the F1 track in Abu Dhabi, 8 cars used the same tires, the same engine, identical bodies, the only difference was the autonomous driving code.

The world’s first autonomous driving grand prix has started.The first AI Formula race, 8 laps took one hour

Last Sunday, the first race of the Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League A2RL was held on the Yas Marina Abu Dhabi Formula 1 track; this race brought together skilled scientists, engineers, and developer teams from around the world, incorporating cutting-edge technology into racing, all of this is to reshape the future of mobility through extreme sports.

Intelligent driving technology has been in the developing stage on mass-produced cars and is “about to cover urban areas”. Due to the rapid progress of AI technology, the expansion of unmanned driving application scenarios is an important trend for the future.

But can actual cars compete with each other on the F1 track now? In fact, in the first A2RL race, more than 10,000 spectators and 600,000 online viewers experienced many exciting moments.

The struggle of AI starting to race started from the qualifying rounds, the unmanned Dallara super formula cars equipped with cameras and software didn’t seem to be good at racing, compared to human drivers’ lines and braking positions, their performance was considerably rough.

During the trial period, some of the race cars avoided the air by braking heavily on the straight track:

The first AI Formula race, 8 laps took one hour

Or they would spin directly (a F1 term, spinning in place by braking):

The first AI Formula race, 8 laps took one hour

It’s common for human novices driving formula racing cars to spin, after all, the cars are fast and operation is complex. However, when AI is driving, it occasionally does things differently.

For example, predicting the next route in advance and crashing into the wall:

The first AI Formula race, 8 laps took one hour

Or just driving off the track for a short rest and adjustment, preparing for the next start:

The first AI Formula race, 8 laps took one hour

This is just the qualifying race, and it seems there are already lots of scenes that can be captured for memes.

In response, the reporting media expressed a wish to pay tribute to those patient and gracious commentators because they haven’t heard them sigh even once. Instead, the commentators claim that these vehicles are “Pushing the boundaries of science”.

But since everyone is an AI driver, there’s no time to close the door, so at any rate, there are qualifying scores.

Tim Stevens, former vice president of car reporting content at CNET, editor-in-chief at Engadget, senior editor, analyst and expert in the technology and automotive industry, made a number of blog posts on his personal online platform during the on-site tracking report at A2RL:

The first AI Formula race, 8 laps took one hour

From the sidelines of the track, Tim Stevens, who was reporting in real-time, expressed his surprise: In the world’s first four-wheel autonomous track race, things didn’t go exactly as planned. The leading car, Polimove, skidded. The second car overtook it cleanly (impressive!), but officials showed a yellow flag, and the other cars were confused because they know overtaking is not allowed under a yellow flag. So the whole race came to a halt. As they were preparing for a second attempt, Tim hoped this time it would go a bit smoother.

During the main race, the leading car Polimove skidded on the fourth lap of eight, and the second car Tum safely overtook it, but not long after, the race officials showed a yellow flag.The first AI Formula race, 8 laps took one hour

Since these are AI drivers who prioritize obeying traffic rules, the two cars following Polimove also stopped, reluctant to pass the skidding yellow car.

It seems that AI algorithms that are usually proficient at street driving might not function correctly during a race.

About an hour after the start of the first lap at A2RL, the AI drivers completed their eight-lap race (the organizers reduced it to seven laps after finding out that eight laps were a bit hard for the AI drivers).

As a comparison, the fastest lap in the F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by humans was 1 minute 26.103 seconds set by Verstappen. The Dallara SF23 used by the AI race cars is one of the fastest cars beneath F1, and a human wouldn’t take more than 1 minute 40 seconds to complete a lap.

But the AI driving, it seems a bit “cautious”.

The first AI Formula race, 8 laps took one hour

The final result was that the Technical University of Munich’s TUM autonomous super formula race car, in a dramatic last lap overtake, clinched the final victory.

The first AI Formula race, 8 laps took one hour

The autonomous super formula race car from the Technical University of Munich, Germany, won the first Abu Dhabi Autonomous Car Championship on the Yas Marina circuit. Image Source: AETOSWire.

The first AI Formula race, 8 laps took one hour

The team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) lifted the championship cup at the A2RL race.

The development of autonomous racing cars is still in its early stages, but things are definitely going to get better. They have made considerable progress since they completed their first full race circuit in Roborace in 2017.

The first AI Formula race, 8 laps took one hour

In 2017, Roborace launched the world’s first autonomous electric racing series at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and showcased the Robocar on site.
We believe that they will one day be on par with human racers (if that really happens).

But for now, humans are still in the initial stages of autonomous racing, having solved the existence problem, the next step will definitely be more exciting.

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