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A2RL launches new era of autonomous motorsport in Abu Dhabi

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 bringing autonomous racing to life, putting 10,000 spectators at Yas Marina and many more watching online at the heart of the action.

After years of development, A2RL is holding its first race at Abu Dhabi's legendary Yas Marina circuit. On 27 April, A2RL hopes to introduce a new type of motorsport, but also kickstart a new wave of autonomous technology development.

A2RL has brought teams of engineers, scientists, and even former Formula 1 driver 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, and the United States, each have the same car to start: A Dallara-built chassis, powered by a 550hp 2.0-litre turbocharged Honda-based motor linked to a six-speed gearbox. A modified take on the 185mph cars found in Japan's Super Formula, now called EVA24, they serve as a basis for the eight teams to build upon.

Rather than a human driver in the cockpit, AR2L cars have vast swathes of tech: GPS, cameras, sensors, computers, and much more at the heart of the car. That tech, and how well it's been programmed, will decide who gets on the top step, and it'll 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. If you've ever wanted to know what it was like to be at the heart of a race, A2RL will let you do just that.

The first-ever A2RL race comprises two events. The first will be revealing: AI v Human. Daniil Kvyat will face off against an A2RL car to see whether man or machine is the fastest. Later, the main event will kickstart a new breed of motorsport: After years of testing, simulations, shattered carbon fibre, and thousands of gallons of coffee, eight teams will compete in a series of races and challenges on 27 April for a $2.25million prize pot to see who's made the biggest leap in autonomous driving technology. To date, no more than two autonomous cars have raced together – A2RL's final will see four hit the track for the first time in history.

A race event would not be the same without a Fanzone. On site, from 17:00, the Fanzone will open to all. In there, visitors will be able to enjoy karting, Gran Turismo race sims, R/C cars, food trucks, an immersive AI museum, and more besides. 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 two-fold. 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, maybe, leading to cars that can drive themselves.

A2RL isn't a flash in the pan, but the beginning of years-long commitment to developing the future of safety technology, and it'll be tremendously fun to watch as it goes.

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

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