Would anyone watch a driverless F1 race?

GP SPAGNA F1/2021 – VENERDÌ 07/05/2021

Formula 1 has always been a sport at the forefront of technology and innovation. In fact, few other sports or industries spend as much of their annual budget on technical development. However, new technology in the sport has often sparked controversy.

The battle to retain the essence of the sport while pushing the boundaries of what is technically possible is an ongoing one. Every season, there seems to be a debate about where the sport is heading and whether new technology and rule changes are enhancing or impairing it.

The Growth of Artificial Intelligence in F1

The question always seems to be: Where do we draw the line with technology? And that examination is likely to be tested to the limit by artificial intelligence. AI has already been of great benefit to motor racing. Top F1 teams already using machine learning and AI-powered analytics systems to make on-track strategy calls and AI is also used by teams across the paddock to develop and test new cars and engines.

AI in Other Sports

AI is also making an impact in other sports. The world of UK horse racing is being transformed by AI as state-of-the-art betting prediction tools change the way punters bet and how statistics and data are dealt with. For example, the Beth AI betting tool uses complex algorithms powered by AI to optimise wagering returns. In sports such as cricket and rugby, augmented coaching systems are also being used, with data from wearable sensors being processed by AI to help design bespoke training regimes for individual players.

AI is also being used in broadcasting to enhance the viewing experience by automatically choosing optimum camera angles and relevant screen graphics. Meanwhile, AI systems are also transforming journalism by processing data to provide instant match summaries.

The Human Element

The adoption of AI in motorsport has led some to predict the sport is heading on an inevitable path towards driverless cars. Autonomous vehicles are already becoming a reality in the automotive world, with concept delivery vehicles amongst those already being developed. What’s more, there is already an autonomous race series being planned. But are driverless cars really a serious option for F1?

When it comes to driving the perfect race in optimal conditions, the human element is the weakest link in a Formula 1 car but it’s also the only element that can react instinctively and intuitively to unpredictable events. Most hard-core F1 fans are fascinated by the technical side of the sport and understand how much the car plays a part in the outcome of races. Yet, it is the thrill of seeing the drivers pit their skill against another in these machines that makes the sport what it is.

Driverless F1 races could feature as a side-show to the main event in the future as a way for manufacturers to push car development and capabilities to the limit without compromising driver safety. However, it is almost impossible to imagine a scenario where fans could engage with the sport in the same way if drivers were completely removed from the equation.

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