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Car and Driver: The World’s First Autonomous-Car Track Day Is Next Month


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Got a hot little self-driving number that you’re just dying to take to the track? Thunderhill Raceway is hosting the track day for you.


Jonathan Gitlin over at Ars Technica brings us the news of the world’s first autonomous-car track day, which takes place at Thunderhill Raceway on May 28 and 29 in Willows, California. It’s being put on by Joshua Schachter, and so far, 16 teams have signed up. As Schachter told Ars Technica, this isn’t just a playground for big-money automakers to show off their self-driving car technology. “If you squint at it, and it’s automotive, come try it on the track,” he said.


And people are taking him up on the offer. So far, attendees include a few fully autonomous cars (and a self-driving go-kart), companies researching sensor technology for self-driving cars, and connected-car startups. “The idea is to push the limits of engineering,” Schachter said. “Track days are the first step into racing, and I thought rather than create a hardware platform for people to use, why not create an event?”


As self-driving car technology advances, the racetrack increasingly looks like a viable venue. Last year, Audi pitted a self-driving RS7 (shown above) against a professional driver; when Faraday Future finally introduced its wackadoodle concept car to the world, it hyped the idea of a self-driving racer that could autonomously whip you around the track faster than your pitiful human skills could ever attempt.


Schachter, a Spec Miata racer himself, is aware that the self-driving track day could very well be a slow start. “I don’t know that anyone will complete an autonomous lap at this first event,” he said. Unlike Formula E’s Roborace, an autonomous-car racing series set to begin this year, there’s no template for what you can bring to Schachter’s self-driving track day. If you’re brewing up something and you want to see how it does on the track, there’s still plenty of time to sign up.


This story originally appeared on Road & Track.


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