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A2RL Autonomous Racing Championship Launches in Abu Dhabi

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There’s a new breed of motorsport coming, and the only human involvement is far away from the cars. The Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League (A2RL) is exactly what it sounds like: autonomous racing in front of a 10,000-strong crowd at the Yas Marina Circuit, and streamed live online.

After years of development, A2RL is finally ready to hold its first race at Abu Dhabi’s legendary Yas Marina circuit. On April 27th, A2RL hopes to change the way we look not only at motorsport, but at autonomous driving for good.

A2RL has brought teams of engineers, scientists, and even former Formula One racer Daniil Kvyat together to turn a cutting-edge race car into something with a mind of its own. The teams, hailing from UAE, China, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United States, each have the same car to start: A Dallara-built chassis, powered by a 550-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged Honda-based engine linked to a six-speed gearbox. A modified take on the 185 mph cars found in Japan’s Super Formula—now called EVA24—serve as a basis for the eight teams to build upon.

A2RL First Event

Where you’d normally find a driver coated in fireproof gear and a sturdy helmet, AR2L cars have vast swathes of tech: GPS, cameras, sensors, computers, you name it. That tech, and how well it’s been programmed, is the difference between victory and defeat. All those cameras will allow spectators to get an up-close view of what’s going on in the race, too, as they offer 360-degree views from the cockpit.

The first-ever A2RL race comprises two events. Daniil Kvyat will be facing off against an entirely AI car to see whether man or machine is the fastest. Later, the main event will start: eight teams, after years of testing, simulations, shattered carbon fiber, and who knows how many gallons of coffee, will compete head-to-head to see who’s made the biggest leap in autonomous driving technology.

From there, the competition really begins: on Saturday, April 27th there’ll be a series of races and challenges pitting driver-free cars against each other. The final race will see four cars racing together—a world first—competing for a $2.25 million prize pot.

A2RL First Event
A2RL First Event

A race event wouldn’t be the same without a fan zone. On-site from 5:00 PM, the Fanzone will open to all. In there, visitors will be able to enjoy karting, Gran Turismo race sims, radio-controlled cars, food trucks, an immersive AI museum, and more. There will also be the final of A2RL’s STEM competition—an event for younger race fans who’ll be using their coding know-how to show what they can do with 1:8 scale A2RL racers.

The reason for A2RL? Safety, collaboration, and the advancement of technology. Time and time again motorsport has driven the development of tech, and when it comes to autonomy it’s time for race cars to step up to the plate again.

Coming from the ASPIRE group, the technology transition pillar of Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Research Council, A2RL is challenging teams to create a car that can run, and win entirely without human intervention. On track, once the cars have started they’ll be entirely on their own to finish the race. The only way a human can change their course is to halt it remotely—there’s no hidden driver in a pod behind the scenes. It’s all down to technology.

The aim is twofold. Firstly, to put on a good show for fans. More motorsport is always a good thing after all. The second is to develop technology that can be used in the passenger cars of the future. The lessons learned here will be transferable, and feed into advanced safety systems that keep drivers safe on the road. Eventually, this could lead to cars that can drive themselves.

From this initial event, A2RL will build up to a global race calendar and hopes to bring in excited audiences both physically, and virtually.

Watch the live race stream here or go to a2rl.io for more information.

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