On this Memorial Day weekend – traditional start of the racing season the US and the calendar home of the Indy 500 – we thought we'd take a look at the future of racing, and whether Ricky Bobby will find himself hammering it home in the driver's seat…or pushing fries in the concession stand. Racing leagues – including aptly-named Roborace – are popping up promising spectators the opportunity to see driverless cars compete in virtual battles of algorithms. Teams of researchers are taking algorithms similar to those already being used by major brands like Tesla and Google to put cars on the open road and put them to work on the racetrack. There is so much interest in the idea of pushing autonomous vehicle technologies to the extreme that track days have been set up to enable autonomous technologies developers to put their vehicles to he test on the track. Recently, Arrow Electronics broke records with its semi-autonomous vehicle at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
A robotics startup that designs bionic limbs for children in the style of superheroes has raised £4.6 million from investors including the Formula 1 team Williams. Bristol-based Open Bionics became the best-selling multi-grip bionic hand in the UK after launching its Hero Arm in 2018, and plans to use the funding to grow to international markets. Using 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies, the firm has managed to drastically reduce the cost of building robotic prosthetics, allowing the bionic limbs to be covered by national healthcare systems in the UK and abroad. "The Hero Arm is a custom made myoelectric prosthetic. This means users, amputees and people with limb differences below the elbow, can control their new bionic fingers by squeezing the muscles in their forearms," Open Bionics co-founder Samantha Payne told The Independent.
The all- new test vehicle will be used to explore a full range of autonomous driving capabilities. Toyota's work on autonomous vehicles in the United States began in 2005 at its technical center in Ann Arbor, Mich.-- The company secured its first U.S. patents in the field in 2006.-- According to a report last year by the Intellectual Property and Science division of Thomson Reuters, Toyota holds more patents in the field than any other company. "This new advanced safety research vehicle is the first autonomous testing platform developed entirely by TRI, and reflects the rapid progress of our autonomous driving program," said TRI CEO Gill Pratt.
Fans attending Formula E's Buenos Aires ePrix got a nice treat: the first'race' between self-driving cars on a professional track, courtesy of a test from Roborace. Only... it didn't quite go according to plan. Roborace's two test vehicles (known as DevBots) battled it out on the circuit at a reasonably quick 115MPH, but one of the cars crashed after it took a turn too aggressively. The racing league was quick to tout the safety advantages of crashing autonomous cars ("no drivers were harmed"), but it's clear that the tech is still rough around the edges. Not that Roborace is likely to dispute the need for improvement -- that's what a test like this is for.
Imagine a state-of-the-art driverless car zipping along a road with a disabled, 90-year-old passenger. The car must make a decision: drive into the mother and child and kill them, or swerve into a wall and kill the passenger. This is a variation of the trolley problem, a thought experiment which dominates academic and popular thinking about the ethics of driverless cars. The problem is that such debates not only dismiss the complexity of the system in which driverless cars will exist, but are also moral red herrings. The real ethical issues lie in the politics and power concerns with driverless cars.