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Nico Rosberg: autonomous vehicles would be “the end of racing”

The threat to motorsport from autonomous vehicles has hit the news again as F1 drivers Nico Rosberg said today that autonomous vehicles racing each...

Nico Rosberg: autonomous vehicles would be “the end of racing”

The threat to motorsport from autonomous vehicles has hit the news again as F1 drivers Nico Rosberg said today that autonomous vehicles racing each other would be “the end of racing”.

The German believes that such a contest would remove the vital human competition element that makes motorsport appealing to fans.

The Mercedes Formula 1 driver was speaking during a Facebook Live event in Singapore, which was organised by UBS, where he took part in a competition against NAO, a 58cm automated humanoid robot programmed with artificial intelligence by its developers Aldebaran Robotics.

Both Rosberg and NAO were required to answer four questions relating to F1 and the German driver eventually won the challenge after a final tiebreaker.

Nico Rosberg UBS Facebook Live

One in-contest query that asked if racing could ever become automated led to Rosberg saying such a scenario would be “the end of racing” as it would eliminate the human contest spirit that appeals to the sport’s fans.

“That would be the end of racing because what the people love to see is us, man against man,” he said during his answer. “[That’s] what they love to see, these battles out there and going to the limit and everything. [Autonomous racing] would definitely be the wrong way I think.”

But the 21-time F1 race winner, who is just two points behind his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ championship heading into this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, went on to describe the idea of a separate event where autonomous vehicles were built to race each other would be “quite interesting”.

He said: “It would be quite cool as a completely separate thing to have teams of people building these artificial intelligence cars and them racing each other. It’s really just about technology and that could be something quite interesting.”

https://twitter.com/roborace/status/768379326937047040

The all-electric Formula E series is developing technology with the Kinetik investment company to stage an autonomous vehicle support series, which will be called Roborace.

The technology was recently tested on-board an Ginetta LMP3 chassis during Formula E’s official pre-season tests ahead of its third season, but there is no word yet on when the Roborace series will join the electric championship’s support bill.

Earlier in the live event, which can be viewed on the UBS F1 Facebook page, Rosberg was asked if he would ever consider racing against an automated car, and the 31-year-old explained that trusting the technology when battling for position during a race would be a problem.

Singapore Grand Prix 2015

He said: “I’d be worried because for sure there is an element of trust between us drivers and we know what can be done and what can’t be done [and] where is the limit to being dangerous.

“To just immediately trust an automated car like that would take time, you would really have to slowly but surely figure your way out with it and see if it really knows what it’s doing.

“But even then, to trust an artificial intelligence is going to be a difficult thing for all of us in the future.

Lucas di Grassi

Rosberg’s answer on autonomous vehicles being “the end of racing” echoes a statement made by former Virgin Racing Formula 1 driver, and current World Endurance Championship and Formula E racer, Lucas di Grassi, regarding the potential rise autonomous of road vehicles turning motorsport into a niche pastime at best.

“The problem we face in motorsport, is autonomous vehicles,” he told the 2016 FIA Sport Conference. “There are two very important components on the autonomous vehicles for the future. First, people in general will lack the experience of driving – I have younger cousins [who] don’t want to take their driving licenses anymore. If you don’t drive, you don’t get the feeling and the passion for motorsport.”

What do you think about autonomous vehicles in motorsport? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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