"As an experiment, it was intriguing, as a race it was an absolute farce."

Turn Around When Possible

Abu Dhabi's Autonomous Racing League got off to a rough start over the weekend.

The Formula 1-style race, the first of its kind, saw its fair share of blunders and crashes, as The Verge reports, with driverless racing cars spinning helplessly and running off the track. One car even crashed into a wall after turning too early.

In short, it's a perfect microcosm of our current efforts to develop self-driving cars: the industry's brightest minds from around the world are still struggling to get a vehicle to reliably complete a lap, even without any other racecars around.

The Other Left

The Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League saw eight teams competing, using identical Dallara Super Formula SF23 cars. The vehicles' 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines can produce around 550 horsepower, and seven Sony cameras provide a 360-degree view from the spot where a human driver would usually sit.

While the cars were the same, each team had its own software engineers writing code and training AI algorithms to have their driverless machines race around the purpose-built Yas Marina Circuit.

In many ways, it's the natural evolution of Formula 1 racecar driving, given our obsession with driverless vehicles. Who needs those pesky human drivers when you can have algorithms battle it out on your behalf?

Race Farce

But there are bound to be some growing pains — and chaos reigned supreme.

"Whelp, things didn't quite go according to plan in the world's first four-car autonomous circuit race," automotive journalist Tim Stevens wrote in a Threads post. "The leading car, Polimove, spun. The second car got by cleanly (impressive!), but the officials threw a yellow and the other cars got confused, knowing they were not allowed to pass under yellow. So the whole race ground to a halt. (Less impressive.)"

Onlookers weren't impressed.

"Love seeing technology and research," one user commented on a live stream of the event. "But damn this is unwatchable."

"This is a kids science fair competition for millionaires," another user wrote.

"As an experiment, it was intriguing, as a race it was an absolute farce," one commenter argued.

As The Race reports, former Formula 1 driver Daniil Kyvat took on the AI-powered racecars — and easily crushed the competition, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

Autonomous Robotics Research Center technical director Giovanni Pau, however, argued that the equation could eventually flip on its head as the technology improves.

"Look at it in a year, or a year and a half from now," he told The Race. "I’m not sure it will be the same."

More on self-driving race cars: The Fast and the Autonomous: Self-Driving Cars Can Drift Now

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