When racing ends this is how it might happen

By Freddie Heaney, May 17, 1014

Image from Wired.com

Image from Wired.com

Russian chess Grandmaster and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov once boasted he would never lose to a machine, but that is exactly what happened in May 1997, when he suffered defeat while competing against an IBM supercomputer known as Deep Blue.

Fourteen years later BMW has released footage of a car that orchestrates elegant four-wheel drifts on the very ragged edge of traction. This is probably no surprise since the German car company, in common with most US car makers, has remained largely committed to the high performance rear-wheel-drive concept.

But there is news:

This BMW, however, requires no driver in the car to accomplish it—it’s autonomous. Remote and independent it uses highly sophisticated 360-degree radar with ultra-sonic sensors and cameras to make the driving decisions. Furthermore, it can be programmed to lap race tracks with the finest clinical efficiency. One wonders when these vehicles become available what our car racers will do. Will we call our sport “classic racing” as the chess people refer to their game?

And what will our beloved traffic enforcement authorities do? Their practice of concealing themselves in dark, secluded, or unexpected places anticipating a willful or errant speeder could be obsolescent. As a result the days of their revenue-generating activities, via a highway chase, could be virtually extinct. Though we remain occupants within the motor vehicle, its speed will be sensibly set at the legal limit and we are busy computing while commuting instead of driving. You will create text messages and conduct phone calls and in festive times tell the long-suffering dedicated driver to imbibe a little!

Let’s move!

And who knows it might end the frustration of obediently following the 41mph dawdler along a two-lane road with endless double yellow lines. For most of us, it’s no fun being tail-end Charlie—tediously trapped behind a long line of sleep-induced road users. With a little luck the dawdler will be whisked along in a more capable and safer fashion than previously.

The Bavarian Motor Works anticipates their autonomous car could be legal on some highways in fewer than six years.

As World War II US Army general George Smith Patton once said: “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they’ll surprise you with their ingenuity.”

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