What if your boss knocked on your cubicle door and said he had something big to tell you? That the company had been making significant advances in the past few months and that there would be a machine to take over all your duties from now on? His eyes are gleaming even as he spells out your doom right before you. If you can feel certain parts of your anatomy shrinking in sympathy, you can probably imagine how F1 drivers felt when the advent of a new driverless car was announced.
These Robocars will be debuting at support Formula-E races in the 2016/17 season alongside the all-electric Formula E season. It will serve as an introduction to autonomous driving technology that could become a common sight on the road in a mere decade’s time. As convenient as it may be for the rest of us to throw up our arms and let our cars do all the driving, this advance could make F1 drivers obsolete sooner than you think. Now ain’t that a kick in the head?
Here’s what some big names had to say about these unnerving new development. We think Emanuele Pirro’s impassioned response really dives into the crux of the matter.
António Félix da Costa
“As a driver, I hope it doesn’t work. That’s not because I want boundary-pushing technology to fail – and let’s face it, it’s the way forward for road cars – but because I love racing and the idea of a computer taking my place is really uncomfortable. And besides, I’d have to get a new job, and I enjoy racing cars for a living.”
“Driverless cars are without doubt the best way of reducing the number of accidents on the roads, as most accidents are caused by human error. But motorsport is a different thing altogether. Motorsport is a sport for real men and women. Sure, robotic cars will drive faster and have better endurance, just as military drones can perform better in those respects than manned aircraft. But a computer can never replicate the emotions of a human.”
“Humans make things unpredictable. They cause other humans to have feelings, be it for a major effort like in a cycling race, a piece of incredible skill like in a football or tennis match, or doing something daredevil like in motorsports or mountain climbing.”
“Imagine you’re at the Olympics and the men line up for the 100m final. Then, instead of having a race and seeing who is best on the day, you just read out the list of Personal Best Times and give the gold medal to the fastest guy on paper. That’s what driverless cars would do for motorsport. They remove the ability for a driver to make a difference, to make a mistake, to do something heroic. These are the reasons we love motorsport, and to take that away would be terrible.”
“Cars don’t talk and that’s the critical thing here. Manufacturers race because they want to sell cars. I understand the move towards autonomous vehicles, because it’s what the car makers are doing. But let me ask you, what to you love about MotoGP, Yamaha or Valentino Rossi? What did you love about Formula One in the 1980’s, McLaren or Ayrton Senna?”
“Motorsports needs celebrities, heroes. Roborace might be great for the data-loving computer geeks, but not for me. Maybe it’s because I’m a purist, but personalities and characters are why we all love the British Touring Car Championship and the increasing reliance on technology has been why interest has been declining in both F1 and the DTM in recent years. I’d be interested in watching one race, but no more.”