Why we need self-driving F1 cars
Let's put self-driving cars through their paces.
Before we couldn’t go abroad anymore, I was on a plane coming back from Mallorca. And about 20 minutes into the flight, the captain said we’d reached cruising altitude to take us home. The seat belt sign turned off, legs were stretched and drinks were served.
But, after the nice stewardess poured me a gin, I thought to myself, what the captain actually meant by ‘reached cruising altitude’ was basically “right chaps, I’ve put this puppy on autopilot. Deborah, get me a scotch and soda. Alexa’s got the controls.”
I think the vast majority of us are probably unconcerned by autopilot. Why would you need to be? Planes nowadays are essentially flying iPhones with the amount of tech they carry – not to mention the level of data that passes through them, interconnected to millions of beacons globally.
And, yet, when you think about it, autopilot is actually carrying out a huge task with massive responsibility for hundreds of lives – at 35,000 feet. But, because it’s happened a billion times in the past successfully, you can trust it.
However, when it comes to cars, most of us are terrified by the thought of driverless vehicles. And the reason why is simple: they don’t have a track record.
Whenever you hear about driverless cars nowadays it’s either because a politician wants to seem ‘forward-thinking’ and has promised to support them. Or because a test car has run over a grandpa on his way to play bingo.
And then the companies developing these cars come out and say things like ‘well, the old geezer was wearing camouflage pants so you can’t blame Herbie for getting confused. This will take time.’
I don’t think anyone on Earth can be sure whether driverless cars will catch on or not at the moment. But I think I know what could help…
Rather than testing driverless cars in small towns full of the elderly, why don’t they put the technology through its paces in racing cars? Specifically, F1 level cars.
Just imagine, twenty self-driving car companies vying to be quicker, more accurate and safer than their competitors. A proper sporting event. No drivers to complain about tyres or to forget fuel management, just a hundred nerds in star trek t-shirts editing code from a warehouse.
It’d be like modern-day robot wars. It's great to see groups like Roborace are trying very hard to get autonomous racing started, but we seriously need to spice up the testing - especially given from 2021 the UK government wants these cars on the road.
I truly believe if a self-driving car company won a few high-speed races in a competition, I’d feel at least ten times more confident about their road equivalents.
It’s not like this is a totally random idea either, a lot of modern cars have engineering that originates from racing cars. Ultimately, if you want something to develop fast, you’ve got to make the environment challenging. And grandparents wearing khaki trousers on the pavement sadly isn’t.