Autonomous race cars sound idiotic at first glance. And second. But there's something to this concept from the Italian designers at ED. The Torq isn't just a self-driving, electric racer with over 1,300 lb-ft of torque. It's pointing towards a new direction for endurance racing. It's also total bullshit, at least for now.
Think about the fundamental purpose of endurance racing: testing the fortitude of both the car and the driver. One fails and it's over.
We've done as much as we can to turn drivers into top-level athletes (until the FIA finally approves biohacking), so how do we evolve the technology running the car when the driver can't keep up?
ED doesn't really have any answers, but the Torq has some interesting ideas. First, it's going for maximum aerodynamics, so the flying wedge doesn't have any windows to muck up its coefficient of drag. Instead, the driver gets the outside world live-streamed using a 360-degree screen.
Naturally, it's electric, with a hub-mounted motor at each wheel putting out a combined 429 horsepower and 1,327 lb-ft of torque. There's an 88 kWh lithium-ion battery pack mounted in the chassis, up 3 kWh from the top-spec Tesla Model S, and that alone contributes 1,212 pounds to the 2,205-pound curb weight. And of course there are scissor doors, but they hinge in reverse.
What ED won't say is exactly how a fully autonomous, electric-only race would work, but it is claiming a 4-minute lap of the Circuit de la Sarthe, with enough juice on-board to do 12 laps. Forget the fact that claim is completely theoretical, that means only 48-minute stints, a bit off from the hour-plus most teams have between pits. But if, in this fictional racing world, they added battery swapping to the mix, there might be something to learn. Formula E won't do it even though they should, and as for the whole autonomous thing, it could be a way for automakers to really prove their machines can handle the rigors of endurance racing. Maybe cut the driver count to two and double the Nürburgring 24 Hour race to 48? Daniel Simon has some ideas.