Roborace autonomous car slams into pit-wall before reaching first corner

Autonomous motorsports utilise some of the most advanced and complex software technologies available today, but you might not have known it if you were watching on Friday.

The Roborace series has successfully hosted fully autonomous motorsport events since 2016 – however, on Friday not everything quite went to plan.

Competing at Britain’s Thruxton circuit, the Acronis SIT Autonomous team car suffered a nasty and embarrassing accident within seconds of leaving the starting grid for a test run.

As it accelerated from the line the vehicle veered hard to the right, colliding with the pit wall and tearing off the front splitter.

There was no immediately obvious explanation for the incident, however an individual claiming to be a mechanic for the team later posted findings to reddit.

“The actual failure happened way before the moment of the crash, on the initialisation lap,” he said.

“During [the lap] something happened which apparently caused the steering control signal to go to NaN (Not a Number) and subsequently the steering locked to the maximum value to the right. When our car was given a permission to drive, the acceleration command went as normal but the steering was locked to the right,” he added.

“We are looking at the log values and can see that our controller was trying to steer the car back to the left, but the car did not execute the steering command due to a steering lock.”

“The desired trajectory was also good – the car definitely did not plan to go into the wall.”

CarAdvise has contacted the Acronis team for further comment, and this story will be updated with its response.

The Roborace series was initially introduced as a curtain raiser for the Formula E championship, however since 2019 it has hosted events in its own right.

All competing cars use the same chassis and powertrain – known as the DevBot 2.0 – however team engineers develop personalised artificial intelligence software to maximise speed and efficiency.

Watch the crash below, and let us know what you think in the comments – does autonomous racing have a future?

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