By now, I think every one of us is used to seeing computers and robotics experiencing bugs (or “features,” depending on how you view it) that will throw a wrench in the works. And then it’ll either end in a complete crash, or a funny turn of events. Or, if we’re super lucky, both.

Turns out, there’s this thing called the Roborace, a competition involving completely autonomously driving and electrically powered vehicles. One such competition took place last Wednesday through Friday and its highlight, apparently, was one such vehicle crashing immediately after the program put the pedal to the metal.

Did you know that there’s such a thing as as the Roborace, a racing event for autonomous cars?

Image credits: Robocar

So, meet DevBot 2.0, the impressively sleek autonomous race car that was used for the Season Beta, a racing event included in the Roborace competition. It had a total of two runs, the first of which was the initialization lap, where the car is taken from the boxes to the start/finish line and the car is driven by a human driver for one lap. It’s standard procedure in Roborace.

The second lap, however, did not go so well. As soon as the car was given the green light to accelerate, that it did. And for some reason, the steering wheel was stuck in the right-most position. And then it crashed into the racecourse barrier.

Well, apparently it took place last week, and there was even a rather ridiculous crash in it!

Image credits: Robocar

The Season Beta 1.1 race was broadcast over Twitch, meaning that people saw the crash live. Soon after this, one of the engineers from the SIT team behind the Acronis self-driving speedster went to Reddit to explain what exactly went on.

He explained that the failure happened before the moment of the crash—during the aforementioned initialization lap. Something happened that caused the steering control signal to become NaN, meaning not a number. Since the system runs on number values, getting one that is not a number is, needless to say, a bit of a problem.

So, the steering wheel locked up in its right-most position because of this and the rest is history. The engineer doesn’t know what actually caused this error, but he did explain that it was an extremely rare occurrence where there was a short spike in the inputs to the controller. Normally, it would have been filtered out, but there is a config whereby the spike is allowed.

One of the self-driving cars decided to end it by driving into the wall right off the start

Image credits: Robocar

The programming error was soon investigated, patched, tested, and the car was ready to have another go at the race. The original car had to be sent back to the factory for repairs, but they quickly set up the default Roborace car for the second run.

And the second run went smoothly. This time, it avoided the wall and drove straight without any significant problems. The race car ended up winning second place. You can take a look at the second run (the successful one) on the Roborace Twitch channel here.

Its engineer explained that the crash occurred due to an error that developed during the initialization lap

Image credits: Robocar

The DevBot 2.0 is an all-electric race car that, according to the website, runs on the Nvidia DRIVE platform when in autonomous mode. Though it does have an AI driver, it can be driven by a human too, which would help in the research of identifying the relationship between man and machine for assisted and autonomous driving tech in the future. So, it’s not just fun, it’s SCIENCE!

Roborace is said to be the world’s first driverless and autonomous motor sports category and this is one of their first ever live broadcasts—an anticlimactic crash is the perfect way to kick off the grand event, if you ask me!

There are several types of cars and the one that crashed was the Acronis model

Image credits: Robocar

Check out the videos of the crash that went viral on Twitter

Of course, the internet had a good laugh at this little mishap. While some joked that “2020 strikes again,” saying that this perfectly exemplifies what this year is really like, others jested that this is the start of computers becoming self-aware and just ending it before it gets out of hand. Yet others blamed JavaScript, with Roborace themselves saying it’s actually auto-generated code. Darn it, and to think computers are smarter than this!

Others were more supportive though. Who hasn’t written code that wouldn’t have at least one bug present upon launch? Besides, a number of people tune in for the crashes, and knowing that robots tend to not make mistakes all that often, this was worth everyone’s attention!

There was also another car in the circuit that spun out during the race

Image credits: Robocar

Here’s a video of it spinning out

The team did end up winning second place after patching the bug and letting another car race

News of this soon went viral, making headlines on all of the major car and racing websites. The video excerpt went viral on Twitter, garnering over 769,000 views. The sporting event itself was viewed online by over 379,000 spectators.

What are your thoughts on this? Would you watch robotic autonomous cars battling it out on the racecourse? Let us know in the comment section below!

Take a look at how people online reacted to the crash of the DevBot 2.0

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