What does the future of motorsports look like? According to the people behind the ED Torq autonomous race car, windshields will be replaced by video screens, and drivers will be replaced by computers. So I have to ask…what’s the point of racing, without racers?
The all-electric ED Torq race car is pure concept right now, though the company claims its theoretical 88 kWh battery pack has enough juice for 12 consecutive laps at 4-minutes each, and the electric motors provide some 429 horsepower and 1,327 lb-ft of torque in a car that reputedly weighs just over 2,200 pounds. Sounds optimistic, but not entirely undoable, and with a fast battery-swapping technology, the ED Torq could technically race indefinitely at a competitive rate (most cars come in around 3:30 for average lap times).
To improve aerodynamics, there are no windows on the Torq at all. Instead, cameras placed all along the outside of the racer provide a 360 degree view via video screens on the inside, which greatly reduces drag and allows for a longer range and higher top speed. Windows are a major source of drag, but there’s not many ways of getting around them short of open-cockpit cars.
The answer could be as simple as a competition between man and machine, machine versus machine, or something a bit more complicated, like shared control between human driver and computer navigator. If your initial reaction to an autonomous race car is of disgust, I don’t blame you. But if you stop to give it some thought, there are some really cool implications that come from this concept.
Remember the old Comedy Central show Battlebots? Humans controlling robots in situations far too dangerous for people. I’m picturing scenarios where autonomous cars could race through obstacle courses, loopty loops, or around active volcanoes, where even the bravest drivers wouldn’t dare.
Or maybe we should just let people do the racing, as they always have. What do you think?