If you ever had worries about a future that features autonomous cars taking away the appeal of car races, never fear—the ROBORACE is here. No, seriously. This is a real thing.

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The FIA Formula E Championship announced its intention to field a new global support series beginning in the 2016-2017 race season, and it’ll feature electric, driverless cars. Formula E will team up with a company called Kinetic and its start-up Charge for the series, with Charge providing electric vehicles for pre-race ceremonies and other forms of transportation. All of the race cars will be the same, and strategy will be based off of algorithms and artificial-intelligence technology.

The series will visit the same circuits as Formula E, and 10 teams will each field two driverless cars for one-hour races prior to the main event. One of the teams will be a crowd-sourced operation open to software and technology experts, so independent groups will be able to have their chance at the series, too.

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ROBORACE (that is really, really fun to type) is essentially a proving ground for automotive and technology companies, as well as technical universities, to compete with autonomous-driving technologies.

What’s most curious to me about the idea—more than the “racing without drivers” thing—is how the competitive aspects will be communicated to fans. If the ROBORACE is meant to be a support series for Formula E, it’ll be interesting to see how the series helps fans follow along when strategy depends on algorithm inputs and things behind the scenes—it certainly won’t be the straightforward, “He or she is faster in these corners” or, “This team plans to make these adjustments the next round of pit stops” all of the time.

According to Formula E, further details about the series, teams and racing technologies will be announced early next year. Maybe we’ll get a clue-in to how the series will package its presentation as well.


Photo credit: AP Photo/Andy Wong

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Contact the author at alanis.king@jalopnik.com.