Forget Self-Driving Cars, How About Self-Racing Cars?

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There are big names working on autonomous car technology. Uber is testing its cars in select cities and you’ll find autonomous features in production vehicles, but not every company trying to build the next big thing is a household name. A group of students and start-ups recently took to the track with their autonomous creations to see how they’d do in a race.

Nine cars tackled a 2.1-mile test track at Thunderhill West located about two hours north of San Francisco. This is the second time the track has hosted the race in what is intended to be a an ongoing series of events. Last year, only two teams managed to complete a full lap. This year the number doubled to four.

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Much like the cars testing on public highways, each car was required to have a human behind the wheel in case the technology needed an assist. Five cars needed that human driver to make their way all the way around the track. The winner was a startup called Point One. Its car completed the full course without human intervention in 37.9 seconds.

Although the race is a highlight, the event isn’t solely about winning this single race. It also provides a safe place to test technology for small companies or students who aren’t at a point where they’re ready to put cars on the road. It costs a lot of money to develop the technology and is equally expensive to gain access to formal testing facilities making it difficult for smaller players.

Since not everyone working on autonomous technology is able to work on a full-size car, there were also smaller course for smaller vehicles. This part of the event was managed by DIYRobocars, which runs monthly events in Oakland California. There was a 1/10th track with white lines and obstacles to avoid and a 1/16th track marked out with RGB tape.

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Whether entrants brought a full-size autonomous car or a small-scale vehicle, the event provided all attendees with a unique opportunity. They were able to test their creations and share insights and information with others in the hopes of making self racing cars a reality.