Formula 1 May Get Autonomous Safety Car

F1 Autonomous Safety Car

From fuel injection and anti-lock brakes to traction control and brake energy recovery, Formula 1 has always been a proving ground for cutting-edge technology. F1 is still a sport, however, and part of its appeal is watching the best drivers in the world take each other on in wheel-to-wheel combat. How, then, can Formula 1 help to advance a technology as potentially important as autonomous cars? One idea being considered: take the driver out of the safety car.

In an interview with our friends at Motorsport, Marcin Budkowski, the head of the F1 technical department, suggests that a driver-less safety car would be a good way to help promote driverless cars without detracting from the show. “We have spoken about an unmanned safety car,” he explains. “It would promote a technology about which there is a bit of skepticism and, instead, it could be shown that it works.”

The move makes sense, and might even help to improve the show by eliminating claims that the safety car (or, “pace car” to our NASCAR friends) is going slower or faster on a given lap and favoring a particular team or driver. This way, the safety car does what it does. It is an unfeeling machine that is doing its job, and- since they’re usually supplied by Mercedes-Benz- probably doing it well.

“The safety car driver would no longer be essential, because it would leave the controls to the computer,” says Budkowski, but he is aware that Formula 1 must beware of the notion that autonomous race cars could replace drivers. “The engineers would love it,” he says of the idea, “but not the fans.”

What do you guys think of an autonomous safety car in Formula 1? Could it work? Would a publicity move like this help educate the public about the emerging new technology? Let us know what you think in the comments.


Source | Images: Motorsport.

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.