Di Grassi: Autonomous cars threaten “niche future” for motorsport

Audi’s Lucas di Grassi believes that the sport’s governing body must consider the threat of autonomous cars to the long-term future of motorsport.

Di Grassi: Autonomous cars threaten “niche future” for motorsport
Lucas di Grassi at the FIA Sport Conference
#8 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18: Lucas di Grassi, Loic Duval, Oliver Jarvis
Overview of the FIA Sport Conference
LMP1 podium: class and overal winners #2 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Romain Dumas takes a champagne shower
Lucas di Grassi at the FIA Sport Conference
Lucas di Grassi, ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport
#8 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18: Lucas di Grassi, Loic Duval, Oliver Jarvis
Winner Lucas di Grassi, ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport

The Formula E points leader and World Endurance Championship race winner gave his astute assessment during the FIA’s Sport Conference, during a debate about the future of motorsport that featured a panel of experts from YouTube, E-sports, drifting, karting and Motorsport.com.

“The threat we face in motorsport is autonomous vehicles,” said di Grassi. “In the future, people in general will lack the experience of normal driving on the road. So if you don’t drive, you won’t get the passion and feeling for motorsport.

“Motorsport will still exist, but because less people will drive I believe it will become a niche sport and not a mass sport – as I believe it was in the 1990s and 2000s.”

Machines now “better” than pro drivers

Di Grassi believes that computer technology is now at a point where it can perform race-driving tasks that are more advanced than human abilities.

“For the first time in history we have machines which do my job better than I do,” said di Grassi, who finished on the podium of the Le Mans 24 Hours.

“My current [Audi] racing car is limited in many vectors, it could go faster if we added some components of extra processing and computing into it, but we are regulated.

“Nowadays, especially in Le Mans, you see technology being more important than the driver. No racing driver wants that.

"Motorsport is about who is the best driver on the track, not who has the best technology – although that’s what the manufacturers want.

“We have to open this door to help motorsport push technology forward, to keep the manufacturers around, but at the same time it’s important we close the door on the driver becoming irrelevant. The driver has to maintain control of the car.

“So I think for the future we have a clear split: which technology do manufacturers want to put into their racecars, and how can we make motorsport a more driver-related sport? How can we make the driver more important than the machine? That’s what we want to see.

“That’s why it’s so important about how the FIA defines the rules for the future of motorsport.”

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Series General
Event FIA Sport Conference
Drivers Lucas di Grassi
Author Charles Bradley
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