While many automakers are working feverishly to create the technologies of the future, one of the most controversial races that have captured the attention of nearly everyone who drives a car is adding autonomous technology. We already have some form of autonomy in our vehicles, but we haven’t had a single fully autonomous vehicle that can be sold publicly yet, which is probably an appropriate caution right now. In an effort to embrace this technology, prove it works and show the world what a driverless car can look like, FIA is considering the possibility of having a fully autonomous safety car added to the Formula 1 racing series.
What Could This Mean for Formula 1
Adding an autonomous safety car to this racing series, which is one of the most popular in the world, will bring this technology to the homes and put it in front of millions of people each week. There has been a massive amount of skepticism surrounding this technology. Seeing this racing series embrace this technology will show the world that we could have cars that drive themselves on the roads around us, which might help increase the positive interest for autonomy.
Of course, we won’t need a driver for the safety car any longer. Currently, the driver of the Formula 1 safety car is former DTM driver Bernd Maylander. The car he takes around the track is a specially equipped Mercedes-AMG GT which fits in perfectly with the cars on the track. By replacing Maylander and his car with an autonomous one we will see Formula 1 embrace the future of automotive technology without removing the human element of the race by taking the drivers out of the cars, which was proposed in the Roborace series of racing, which is more about engineering and programming than actual racing.
What Could Go Wrong
While adding an autonomous vehicle to the track out in front of the Formula 1 cars is certainly an excellent way to embrace this technology the negative aspect that could occur is if the car doesn’t perform properly at the track. The FIA could be taking a huge risk and if the car doesn’t operate smoothly and seamlessly for the drivers on the track the world will be watching. This could setback autonomous technology by many years if the right car isn’t chosen and the technology doesn’t perform the way it should.
Because Formula 1 cars are specially made and need to be kept at a certain pace to avoid overheating, you can add just any car to this duty to get the job done. Thankfully, Audi has already successfully raced a fully autonomous RS7 around the track at Hockenheim which will quickly make this car the right choice. There is zero margins for error in the application of a new safety car and replacing the current driver and car that lead the pace during the caution laps. As the FIA considers a new car for the safety of the race during these laps under yellow, they need to take caution and make sure there aren’t any possible errors in the application.