This post was written by Vincent Rendoni
For the racing enthusiast, the Goodwood Hillclimb likely needs no introduction. Located in a spectacular estate in West Sussex, this historic 1.16 mi track snakes through manicured lawns, horse paddocks, and idyllic English countryside.
It may sound more Jane Austen than Formula One, but don’t be fooled—once a year this slice of pastoral heaven erupts into one of racing’s most exciting events: The Goodwood Festival of Speed. People pour in from all over the world for this enthralling, glamorous celebration of all things fast to be close to the action and enjoy unfettered access to drivers and their machines.
Beyond being storied and glamorous, the track at the heart of The Goodwood Festival of Speed is also a challenging one. With a narrow pathway, steady incline, and proximity to crowds, the Goodwood Hillclimb is best left to the professionals.
Or at the very least, some pretty smart machines.
For their 25th anniversary, The Goodwood Festival of Speed was looking to do something a little different to celebrate their milestone. Something that had never been done before. Something special.
Enter: The Roborace Robocar, the first fully autonomous, fully driverless vehicle to complete the hillclimb—a first for the track, festival, and racing; and a major spotlight on the safety and precision of automated driving technologies.
“We are ecstatic that the team has been able to achieve this landmark run and we hope that it draws attention to the amazing advances that are being made in the automotive industry,” said Rod Chong, Deputy CEO of Roborace. “Robocar is an ambassador for the future technologies we will see on our roads and we hope that inspirational stunts like this will change public perceptions of autonomous vehicles.”
Designed with radar, LiDAR, ultrasonic, GPS, and camera sensors, Robocar was able to construct a 360-degree view of the road and navigate the course using artificial intelligence. Its run went off without a hitch. The crowd? Effectively wowed.
“It is an enormous achievement for a race car to complete the very first run of the Hill using only artificial intelligence,” said Charles Gordon-Lennox, the Duke of Richmond and Founder of the Festival of Speed. “Roborace has worked incredibly hard in order to pull this off.”
As if a car piloted by AI wasn’t enough, both Roborace and the Goodwood Festival of Speed kicked this display of tech and racing machines into overdrive by letting HTC VIVE, and in turn, the fans in on the action.
Just before the festival, REWIND, an Emmy®-nominated immersive content studio, captured footage from Robocar and gathered telemetry data that fed into a custom-built VR rig powered by HTC VIVE Pro. Fans that strapped in were propelled head-first into a true-to-life racing experience—the kind that only VIVE can provide—registering every turn, every bump, every push of the pedal with thrilling accuracy while delivering an up-close look at VR’s ever-evolving potential.