Looking to keep the sport as relevant to future road car technologies as possible, the FIA has begun to look at introducing a fully autonomous safety car in Formula 1.
The FIA believes an autonomous safety car would put self-driving car technology in front of the eyes of millions and paint it in a positive light without detracting from the on-track action. Unlike the proposed Roborace series, which will see purpose-built, unmanned race cars go wheel-to-wheel with each other, an autonomous safety car could advertise autonomous tech whilst retaining the human element of racing.
“It would promote a technology about which there is a bit of scepticism and, instead, it could be shown that it works,” head of the F1 technical department, Marcin Budkowski, told Motorsport.com. “The safety car driver would no longer be essential, because it would leave the controls to the computer. But we must be aware of the attraction of [F1] race cars without drivers: the engineers would love it, but not the fans.”
The current F1 safety car, a specially equipped Mercedes-AMG GT, is driven by former DTM driver Bernd Maylander. Any autonomous replacement for Maylander and his AMG GT would have to be equally as fast, as F1 cars must keep a certain pace to ensure they don’t overheat under caution. Audi’s fully autonomous RS7 Piloted Driving Concept lapped Hockenheim in a fairly rapid fashion back in 2014, so we imagine it wouldn’t be too hard fto implement a fast autonomous safety car going forward. There’s zero margin for error when it comes to racing, though, and if anything did go wrong with the self-driving safety car, there’d be millions of fans looking on.