Formula Pi – An Autonomous Robot Racing League

UK Robotics firm PiBorg is launching a racing league for autonomous robots. Users can become team owners and write their own code for autonomous racing.

Timothy Freeburn and his team at want the world to be more aware and accepting of autonomous vehicles. The group has built a track in their UK headquarters and plans to launch a racing series called Formula Pi. A Kickstarter campaign has been launched, asking for funds to build the autonomous vehicles and outfit their track with a timing system. Backers can get YetiBorg robotic kits for themselves or buy entries into the race series.

Freeburn has previously used Kickstarter as a platform to launch ZeroBorg, the robots that use Raspberry Pi Zero as the controller and will act as the racers for Formula Pi. The vehicles will continue to use Pi Zero as the base and will support Raspberry Pi V1 and V2 cameras. Each of the car’s four wheels is driven by a six Volt Zheng DC motor, and the frame is built from two millimeter aluminum plate. The track itself features five turns, three straighaways and 22.9 meters of length in the center lane.

The current plan is to release one standard Python code that race owners from around the world can use as a base and modify as they wish. Programming lessons will be available through the race series website after the Kickstarter campaign has ended on August 22. Two series of racing are planned at this point, Winter from October 2016 to January 2017, and Summer from April 2017 to July 2017.

Formula Pi is an awesome project for programming and robotics enthusiasts alike, and the racing aspects call to the engineer in all of us. The overall goal of pushing acceptance for autonomous vehicles while also creating more awareness of robotics is a great future state to aim toward. There’s a great video on the campaign page of the team’s first attempts at getting their bots to drive autonomously on the track – seeing the iterative design process is always fascinating to me and watching the YetiBorgs make incremental progress is inspiring. Future ideas from the team include a racing series built with a focus on speed instead of precision, and adding different robot configurations and new racing classes.