Motorsport without a Human Driver?

The Future of Motorsport Source: CNN So here’s the thing; A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) is here and mostly likely here to stay. I don’t think that as a species we fully comprehend the extent to which A.I. pervades our daily lives. Google, Facebook and things like Siri all rely on a form of A.I. Now it looks like A.I. is making its way into the world of motorsport racing thanks to Roborace, a branch of motorsport racing pushing for the proliferation of unmanned motorsport racing, its CEO, Lucas di Grasso, believing that this is the way of the future.

The Essence of Racing

Is he wrong? Can unmanned cars that race and achieve higher yet safer speeds still thrill us? I think so, and while my opinion is but that of one, I think it’s important to give it a think.  When you were a kid and you played on your racing set, what really entertained you? The cars moving on the track – that’s what! In its fundamental essence, motorsport racing comes down to people watching very fast cars manoeuvre their ways around a track. The first time most of us raced Source:

Against Normal Driver Instincts

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not in any way trying to discredit the actual drivers for which I have the utmost respect.  I think it takes incredible guts to drive a car that according to those informed blokes from Top Gear, goes against all your driver instincts. Driving a Formula One car requires incredible courage and talent. Here’s what’s really interesting about a Formula One car:  the faster you drive, the safer you are. The tires and brakes need to be hot and your speeds high enough to create the downward forces at play on the car’s aerodynamics. These temperatures and forces are unachievable at slow speeds thus making high speed the only way through which the car can function under “normal conditions”.

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Will Human Drivers Remain Relevant?

Right, so back to this concept of A.I. racing and the biggest question facing its emergence – can it still be exciting without a human component?  I’ll bet the drivers don’t think so! These gods of the speedways are celebrities with endorsement deals and commanding salaries. The idea of a robot taking their jobs must affect them on so many levels. But the fact of the matter is that A.I. racing is coming and it’s personified through Roborace, a new category of racing that now makes it three in total – Formula One, Formula E and Roborace.

Everyone Wins

Fans of Formula One racing will tell you that Formula E (electronic cars) lacks the aggression and speed of F-1 racing, so it will be interesting to see what kind of effect Roborace has on the industry. I don’t think we can assume that one will usurp the other. In fact it’s quite likely that there will be room for all three categories of racing to exist alongside each other.  Many of us might look at motor sport racing as nothing more than a means to entertainment but the fact of the matter is that the R & D of these vestiges of speed is invaluable and has led to many of the safety features we see on the modern day motorcar. In what can be described as a trickling effect, the discoveries made in Formula One has seen commercial use. Key examples are disc brakes, active suspension, aerodynamics, safer designs, engine developments and electronic developments. Driverless cars are already a reality but with something like Roborace that will spearhead and in many ways force research and development, the future of commercial driving can he up-scaled and we can probably look forward to the comfort, safety and greater convenience of driverless cars quicker than anticipated. At the end of the day, this kind of sport can and will benefit humanity.

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