until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Single Seater/Open Wheel

The technology behind A2RL - and where to watch it

3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

A2RL - the Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League - is a groundbreaking autonomous racing series that has the potential to shake up the motorsport landscape.

The first-ever A2RL event will take place on April 27 at Formula 1's Yas Marina Abu Dhabi Grand Prix venue, as eight teams go into battle over the $2.25million prize pot. 

But what's the technology underpinning the series and what can you expect from the cars that will race in the inaugural event?

The autonomous machines

A2RL will use Dallara-built Super Formula SF23 cars, the current fastest open-wheel cars in the world outside of Formula 1. 

The chassis has been designed to accommodate the autonomous software - known as the 'autonomous stack' - including sensors and actuators, and it's also manufactured using sustainable bio-composite materials. 

Every car is identical but the teams can code that 'autonomous stack' and that should decide which teams are the most successful - as CEO of ASPIRE, the programme management and business development arm of ATRC (Advanced Technology Research Council) that’s behind the concept, Stephane Timpano explains:

“While it may look fairly similar from a distance, the modifications done to the SF23 racecars used in A2RL are extensive. All race cars in A2RL use a drive-by-wire system that replicates human inputs," Timpano said.

"This system employs actuators for the steering, braking, and gear shifting, eliminating the need for a physical driver. These actuators are all controlled by the onboard computer.

“The next major modification is the vast array of sensor technologies that will allow the machine learning algorithms to ‘see’ and develop situational awareness – including radar, lidar, cameras, and GPS.”

There will be seven 360-degree cameras mounted on each car and they will contain a high-powered Neousys RGS-8805GC computer.

The suspension is pushrod at both the front and rear with adjustable dampers at both ends. As for the braking system, it’s made up of Brembo brake callipers and carbon discs front and rear.

Under the hood, there's a four-cylinder turbocharged engine K20C1 engine that's based on the 2.0 litre Honda used in Super Formula, as well as a six-speed 3MO gearbox.

Yokohama Advan tyres will be used on the SF23, as in Super Formula.

The challenge facing teams

Replicating the inputs of real-world drivers is no easy feat but it's something all eight teams will have to master if they want to win.

There's an awful lot for the teams to code into the AI systems given all the varying track conditions, grip levels, g-forces and suspension movements that drivers and race cars have to cope with at every circuit.

It's going to be a huge challenge for human engineering as well as a showcase of groundbreaking AI technology and what autonomous vehicles can do for road safety.

Where can I watch it?

You can follow the inaugural A2RL event on The Race's YouTube channel.

Follow A2RL's social platforms for more information about the event.

The live stream kicks off at 4pm BST with the Opening Ceremony, before race one - an 'AI vs Human' race involving ex-Formula 1 driver Daniil Kvyat - takes place at 4.15pm.

That's the appetiser for the full A2RL final, which involves the best teams from the A2RL qualifier and takes place at 5pm BST, with the podium ceremony following at 5.45pm.

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