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McLaren imagines a future with AI co-piloted race cars

You'll need it when you're going 310 mph and pulling 5 Gs.
Steve Dent, @stevetdent
January 24, 2019
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McLaren

Formula One racing will be more like a video game in 30 years, according a fanciful vision of the future unleashed by supercar maker McLaren. According to its "MCLExtreme" research project (don't try to pronounce that), future formula race cars will do everything short of flying. The cars, electric naturally, will run on Hot Wheels type tracks at up to 500 km/h (310 mph), pulling up to 5 Gs while taking 90 degree bends at 250 mph.

The electric racers would be powered via induction coils on the track directly into receiver coils on the wheels, built of a "self-repairing composite," natch. There would still be batteries on board, that could charge to 10-50 percent capacity in as little as 10 seconds. Instead of a pit stop, you might do a few laps in a charging lane that adds more or less power based on your speed, putting some strategy into play.

Formula 1 in 2050

The tracks would include hilly sections and steeply banked corners that allow for greater speeds. Drivers would be equipped like fighter jet pilots with inflatable bladders in their suits to counteract G-forces. Formula One currently bans active aerodynamics, but McLaren is pretty sure that will change by 2050. Its concept vehicle has "shape-shifting" capabilities, with side pods that retract for max speed and expand to add drag for braking and cornering.

To deal with the extra complexity and danger, drivers would be aided by an AI system that could help with racing strategy and keep the car's systems at their peak. It would even understand the driver's emotional state and provide appropriate advice based on that.

The concept designs are pretty fun, even if it seems like McLaren's engineers saw Ready Player One a few too many times. It might have automotive purists up in arms, but a few of the ideas, like an AI assistant and electric propulsion, will almost certainly come to pass.

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