I’d say both.
If you missed it, here is the video that NASCAR and Google put out yesterday, which they have announced today (but most probably already figured out) was an elaborate April Fools’ Day prank.
For those who don’t watch the video, the gist of the prank is that Google will be introducing “autonomous vehicles” into NASCAR racing. Google has already been employing this technology in the real world with quite a bit of success. Why not add it to the race track?
While the video captures the “reactions” of NASCAR drivers to the idea of these autonomous vehicles hitting the track, I couldn’t help but wonder how long it will be before this idea is no longer a hoax and is reality.
Unquestionably, auto racing is one of the more dangerous spectator sports. How many other contemporary spectator sports carry the legitimate risk of a participant dying on the field/track/court of competition? While this is part of the appeal of the sport, at least in terms of the inherent risk and danger raising the stakes of excitement and the urgency of every moment, it is also a reason why many people don’t participate or choose to not become a fan.
If drivers were replaced by autonomous vehicles, or even some type of remote control (a la the movie Real Steal with fighting robots), the risk to human health and life would be eliminated, and the importance of technology and car design, which are already of great importance in NASCAR, would become even more important.
Are we headed this way? It’s worth pondering, especially in a sport like NASCAR.
I don’t think it’s something that anyone would need to think about 40-50 years, at a minimum, because the fan base for NASCAR in its current form is too strong, but could that shift?
And could the riskiest of sports – auto racing, boxing, even football – someday find ways to put lifeless robots in harm’s way rather than humans, with the human component and competition shifting more to video game-like control?
Who knows. It’s all speculation. But that’s what I thought of while watching the video. It’s interesting to ponder. Drop any comments you have below.
And if you want to follow more NASCAR videos, especially if you want to embed them on a blog like I did above, track their new YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/nascar. The version available at NASCAR.com didn’t allow embedding, but the YouTube versions do. Good move by NASCAR so bloggers can spread their content. (Are you listening Major League Baseball?)