That's basically what we'll get next year in the Roborace, a high-speed stress test for 10 teams of driverless car designers who will compete as a part of Formula E, the global auto racing series that uses only electric cars.
Roborace is being billed as the world's first race involving all-electric, driverless vehicles. With automation becoming increasingly common in consumer cars that move at much slower speeds, Roborace has the promise to showcase vehicle technology that's even more nimble, more reliable and more capable than what's on the market today. Just like real drivers, the cars will have to be programmed to pass each other, pull tight turns, make decisions about when and how to accelerate and, above all, avoid crashes at deadly speeds. (Of course, there won't be any drivers in the cars to get hurt if there is a collision.)
For an idea of what Roborace could look like, here's a driverless car from Audi on a test track moving at racing speeds:
"Roborace is an open challenge to the most innovative scientific and technology-focused companies in the world," Alejandro Agag, chief executive of Formula E, said in a release. "It is very exciting to create a platform for them to showcase what they are capable of."
There are some things that will make this test somewhat easier than driving in the real world. The cars won't have to worry about pedestrians, or stoplights, or cyclists. Still, they’ll all be maneuvering at insanely high speeds, so the sensors and software have to be incredibly nimble and responsive. And there’s no telling how or if some of the cars will mess up, and the other cars will have to react accordingly. As a result, the technology powering these cars will have to be better than what’s commercially available today.
And because the driverless vehicles will be racing on the very same courses that Formula E's human drivers will race, from London to Beijing to Buenos Aires, they won't just be competing against each other. Even though Roborace will be judged separately, people will almost inevitably be tempted to judge the driverless cars in relation to their human counterparts. Good thing robots don't have egos. Yet.