I’m a huge fan of Formula 1 racing, and a “lifelong” Ferrari fan, having been brought up watching Michael Schumacher dominate the sport. Contrary to form, when it came to Formula 1, I was a real glory-hunter. A few years ago, the FIA launched their Formula E series. As a quick explanation, it’s pretty much the same as Formula 1, except it’s street circuits, and it’s electric cars, hence the “E”.
I’m not a huge fan of the new electric format yet, loving the growl of a turbo engine rather than the whir of an electric one. However, I can see myself becoming more “green-focussed” and environmental as I grow older, probably because everyone will, so I expect to become a bigger fan in the years to come.
At the latest Formula E race, in Buenos Aires, there was a special exhibition. 2 driverless, robotic cars raced each other, namely Devbot 1 and Devbot 2. With Devbot 1 in red and Devbot 2 in yellow, the whole thing seemed to smack of a futuristic reinvention of the final race in Pat Sharp’s Fun House. The only thing missing was Melanie and Martina jumping about on the sidelines.
I expected these cars to be controlled remotely, like some sort of life-size Scalextric. However, there was no human intervention whatsoever. Instead, they use a laser-based light detection and ranging system to guide them round the track. Devbot 1 finished the race, but Devbot 2 suffered an untimely demise as it misjudged a corner and caught the edge of a barrier at high speed.
Devbot 1 sort of made up for the failings of Devbot 2 by managing to avoid a dog that ran onto the racetrack. It’s not often you get something like that, so what are the chances of it happening as they try and exhibit these driverless cars? For me, it’s a bit of a setup that, while cool, is a bit tight on the dog. If something goes wrong then that dog is history. But it didn’t, so all’s good.
It’s an interesting thing, the driverless car, and for domestic use I think it will become very popular when the safety has been proven, though I don’t look forward to the full-scale integration of them that will surely come. When it’s all done and dusted though, they’ll probably do a lot of good.
On the racetrack, it’s a different story in my view. It sounds a bit weird, but the danger of the race is half the thrill for the spectator, and I’m sure for the drivers too. While technological innovation is largely a good thing, in the field of motor racing, I think it’ll rather spoil things. It’ll be the death of the sport. This is, no doubt, the precursor to a full “Formula AI” series. Race after race of different AI technologies being pitted against each other. Maybe you need to be a techy to get it, but to me it sounds incredibly boring.
How do you go about reinvigorating a sport that, of late, has lost many fans to boredom, and has no draw to non-fans whatsoever? Certainly not by removing the things that keep a lot of fans interested. The danger. The thrill that, at any moment, someone’s race could be over. The awe at the skill and bravery of the drivers. Remove all that and replace it with empty cars controlled by nobody, and you may as well consign the whole thing to the annals of history. Welcome your 21-time World Champion, Devbot 1!
I foresee a bleak future for Formula 1 as everything becomes more advanced and drivers eventually start to fade out of the picture. Before you know it, there will be driverless racing everywhere and Sunday afternoons will become that little bit more boring.