FutureLab and Roborace at Goodwood Festival of Speed
Private Life and Mobility
Anyone acquainted with the automotive industry, and motorsport in particular, knows the significance of the legendary Goodwood racing circuit. The Festival of Speed has been running since the early 1990s and, this July, Goodwood hosted more than an array of human drivers. It also had robots in attendance.
Teaming up with Roborace, the world’s first racing series for humans and artificial intelligence, Goodwood also facilitated the biggest meeting of autonomous experts at a motorsport event, all designed specifically to engage the public through autosport. FutureLab, a festival within a festival, was also in attendance, exhibiting autonomous innovations and more to the Goodwood faithful.
Over 100,000 spectators witnessed the two fully autonomous Roborace cars – DevBot and DevBot 2 – line up on the grid to take part in the iconic Goodwood hill climb.
Reps from auto giants, including Porsche, Nissan and McLaren, rubbed shoulders with tech companies, including Zenzic, BAE Systems and Arrival, fully aware that the same technology guiding cars on the track will one day be used on the road. And, of course, 2025AD was there to soak up some insights, as well as a little midsummer sun.
Here's what we found out
The ‘motorsport effect’ gets things moving
Autosport influences everything to do with commercial and domestic driving. Once it happens on the circuit, the technology soon finds itself on the road, once it’s proven to be safe and effective.
This event, designed to engage, entertain and inform the public, was also intended to educate. Both Roborace and Goodwood wanted to show the world just how real – and within reach – driverless technology really is to being used safely on our roads.
It's all about ‘zero’
Aside from legislation and infrastructure, safety is widely believed to be the last piece of the autonomous puzzle. And while the technology has been proven safe, it has yet to win public trust.
Roborace subscribes to the objective that zero emissions and zero road deaths can be achieved through autonomous tech. While zero emissions are already classed as the default for autonomous technology, the vast majority of which is electrified, zero deaths is their ultimate goal: ‘Mission Zero’.
Road injuries and deaths are still a huge global issue, resulting in the loss of . 93 per cent of these happen in low income countries, which means autonomous technology must be cost effective to make the right impact. This is something many automotive technology companies are carefully working torwards, including Continental, who have their own "Vision Zero" of zero fatalities, zero injuries and zero accidents.
Autonomous racing and e-sport are being fused together
As Roborace’s engineers explained, the DevBots are built to race in the real world and in the digital one – simultaneously. This is another of RoboRace's long term goals: to bring autosport and e-sport together, while setting a benchmark for autonomous driving.
Roborace and FutureLab both envision smart arenas on site at motorsport events, featuring autonomous racing in the real world and autonomous driving simulations built into games, setting a whole new entertainment experience.
Forget speed, Goodwood is set to be the Festival of Technology
Goodwood is becoming more than just a festival of speed – or indeed of cars. Technology is getting more and more of the limelight. FutureLab saw several different tech and automotive companies exhibiting autonomous vehicles and projects in development, and so much more besides.
The overarching theme was not how machines will replace humans, but rather how humans and robots will work together as we move into the virtual age. Alongside medical advances and virtual headset space exploration, FutureLab offered tantalisingly utopian, and integrated, visions of clean cities serviced by carbon-neutral droids.
Roborace was at the centre of it all, with a presentation showing glimpses of how humans and robots may interact, including how ‘meeting the racing team’ in the Goodwood paddock may look in future years, with the engineers enjoying some of the glamour and attention the drivers currently experience.
Trust is the magic word
Motorsport is a gateway. Competition ignites imaginations, pushes boundaries and sets benchmarks. But, for the public to be fully engaged, they must trust that the technology is safe. Even in the case of motorsport fans, used to a little 'action'.
This means a minimum performance expectation must be met, with the public expecting autonomous vehicles to avoid collisions as an absolute standard. Of course, this is already expected of human drivers, with most regulations upholding the notion to avoid collisions.
However, thanks to the beauty of the technology, autonomous motorsport can still be entertaining and exciting, with plenty of action, despite a lack of recklessness. This means the public can still be entertained as they trust the technology to prevent collisions.
And with public trust, comes commercial and domestic viability.
"We’re trying to connect with the public. When DevBot went up the hill, we saw fantastic numbers in the viewing figures. We have to go beyond tradition and advance autonomous driving through competition," says Roborace’s Paul Andrews.
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