Driverless cars have long been a fantasy, and they’re now bordering on the edge of reality. Well, technically, commercial reality— Google has been developing its autonomous driving technology for several years now. While we’re all acknowledging how convenient (and possibly safe) these new machines could be, the minds at Formula E and Kinetik are taking it one step further and considering the recreational implications of self-driving cars.
Formula E and Kinetic have partnered to create Roborace, a racing circuit that uses only driverless cars. Formula E is no stranger to taking chances with its racing technology— the “E” stands for “electric”, since their races feature only electric cars. Roborace would take that one step further, and in the process reshape conventions that we’ve come to expect from automobile racing.
Because the cars are self-driving, there would be no driver actually behind the wheel, and each team gets the same car. This puts an increased focus on the team of engineers who are designing the algorithms that dictate how these vehicles behave on the track and relative to the competition.
The next logical question is, “would anyone actually watch this?” And it’s a fair one, because billing your sporting event as showcasing the “best motor-offerings that engineers have to offer” could be a tough sell to a more traditional sports crowd. Introducing new technology to old sporting traditions is invariably met with some kind of backlash. One only needs to look towards the outcry over instant replay in FIFA to see how negatively some fans react to these kinds of developments.
But Roborace is betting on something else that will draw fans: speed. With no drivers’ lives at risk, old safety regulations can be effectively ignored. Roborace’s vehicles are boasting speeds of almost 200 mph, and there’s no reason to think that as it continues to evolve we won’t see that number increase. It’s delivering the satisfaction of speed in ways that most fans could have only dreamed of, and keeps its participants safe in the process. (featured image courtesy of Flickr)