Driving Innovation

Algorithms to go head-to-head in Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing

UAE capital prepares for launch of brand-new racing league featuring driverless cars this weekend

The new racing league featuring driverless cars will take place at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi this weekend. (Photo: Getty Images)

There will be no Max Verstappen or Fernando Alonso in the driver’s seat at races taking place at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi this weekend. Indeed, there will be no driver at all.

The UAE capital will test the region’s supercar fandom with the launch of a brand-new racing league featuring driverless cars, offering spectators free tickets and hoping for a crowd of 10,000. 

The first race for the ASPIRE Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League is scheduled for this Saturday, April 27, with eight teams set to compete, including Code19 Racing, one of the first independent autonomous racing teams from the U.S., and Fly Eagle representing Beijing Institute of Technology and the UAE’s Khalifa University. All are vying for a prize pool of $2.25 million. 

The teams will use identical race cars from Dallara, adapting software algorithms to teach their cars how to drive and push them to the limit on the circuit.

Each car is completely autonomous and the only human intervention allowed at race time is a “kill switch” to bring the vehicle to a stop.

Former F1 driver Daniil Kvyat has also accepted the challenge to race head-to-head with one of the autonomous cars, with the engineering teams hoping to get as close as possible to the human lap time. 

Faisal Al Bannai, Secretary General of the Advanced Technology Research Council, the government-backed parent entity of the league, and Advisor to the UAE President on research and technology said the new league is aimed at positioning Abu Dhabi as a leading hub for innovation.

ASPIRE also has plans for autonomous drone racing and races with off-road buggies and boats.

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