A driverless Audi RS7 made history this weekend by lapping the Hockenheimring race track, where it beat a lap time set by a human racer. Did racers just get made obsolete?
Not quite, though this impressive technological feat is the latest effort by Audi to take leadership in the emerging autonomous car field. The driverless RS7 was equipped with the best company Volkswagen (Audi’s parent company) can afford, including a map of the course that establishes the left and right barriers of the track. Then “Bobby”, which is what engineers call the automated Audi, comes up with the best line through the course, and on Sunday’s even it reached speeds nearing 150 MPH, which is nearing the governed 155 MPH speed limit of the RS7.
Putting a computer in control of a two-ton, 530 horsepower bullet may be unsettling to some, but Audi joins Mercedes, Volvo, and Tesla Motors in the pursuit of automated vehicles. The market for self-driving cars will be worth billions over the next couple of decades, and the automakers that get a leg up on the competition could carve up a big piece of that pie for themselves.
As for the automated Audi RS7? Though it beat a lap time set by a meat pilot, the thrill of watching flesh-and-blood racers battle it out won’t be replaced by algorithms and automated cars anytime soon.