Roboracing – Drones with downforce, but without a heart?
(Image Courtesy RoboRace via Twitter)
This week, the FIA unveiled the autonomous vehicle it intends to compete in its championship for driverless racing cars.
Yes, you read that right.
The Robocar – described as a ‘drone with downforce’ – will compete in the Roborace series, which will potentially act as a support race to the FIA Formula E championship from as early as later this year.
The FIA is clearly throwing its considerable weight behind helping the advancement of next-generation automotive technologies, with the world’s first all-electric series racing alongside the world’s first autonomous car championship.
While little is known as of yet about the format that the Roborace series will take, besides the fact that it will feature 20-car grids and one-hour races, the images distributed this week show that Robocar certainly looks the part. Styled by future-gazing automotive designer, Daniel Simon, the car is part futuristic sculpture, part Tron.
But the concept is already dividing opinion. And I can see why; as a motorsport purist and an avid follower of automotive technology, it provokes a real dichotomy.
On the one hand, I’m intrigued to see what a grid of 20 fully autonomous, driverless, computer-controlled racing cars actually looks like on a track.
On the other, I think the concept removes the very essence of what motor racing is all about. Heroes. As much as the design and technology of motorsport has driven the sport forwards in the last few decades, it’s the drivers who are our real heroes. Not the cars.
Find me a motorsport fan who doesn’t yearn for the halcyon days of Formula 1, when men were men.
Men who literally put their lives on the line every other weekend and wrestled their mounts around terrifyingly dangerous circuits, rather than wafting around tracks being governed by computer-aided strategy and driver aids that limit danger – and driver input.
Safety is important, of course, but removing the drivers from the equation altogether? Imagine a motorsport history without the likes of Gilles Villeneuve, James Hunt, Ayrton Senna. As the aforementioned purist, it doesn’t bear thinking about and it’s these characters that have really made the sport what we love.
Is Roborace a step too far – the ultimate expression of what F1 fans have been saying for years, that the technology has taken over?