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The failure of the AI-powered cars that challenged The Stig

The failure of the AI-powered cars that challenged The Stig

Top Gear's The Stig took on two AI-controlled race cars. The race took place at the Yas Marina Circuit, which has hosted several Formula 1 races since 2009. The test ended in a disastrous failure for the artificial intelligence.

The Stig was the secret test driver on Top Gear hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond. A total of 240 episodes were broadcast over 29 seasons. Stig's job on the show was to test the speed of the cars used in the various episodes. The character was always shown wearing a racing suit and helmet with colored visors so that his identity would remain unknown at all times.

Car magazine Top Gear was going to do a test where they wanted to know how fast AI-controlled race cars from the Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League could be. To help them, they then chose to bring in The Stig.

This is what it looks like when AI analyzes your driving.
Self-driving racing car.

AI-controlled race cars have internal combustion engines, but they don't have the same kind of power as the cars driven by Max Verstappen or Lewis Hamilton in Formula 1. Instead of having a driver in the car, they are controlled by radar. Sensors that constantly analyze the data they receive in real time and then react accordingly. The AI ​​is constantly trying to figure out the best places on the track to accelerate and brake in order to improve its time.

The Abu Dhabi Auto Racing League races are run with cars of different strengths to make them more exciting. Some are better in curves and others are faster at accelerating on straight lines. All the cars are running simultaneously on the track, which can often lead to surprises just like Formula 1 viewers are used to.

Now we move on to the test where one of these cars will take on The Stig at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. The Top Gear character, with his four-cylinder car, managed to clock a time of 1 minute and 52 seconds. This is a few seconds slower than Max Verstappen's record of 1 minute and 26 seconds, which he set in 2021.

When it came time to control the car with the AI, it first had to drive a few test laps before it was finally time for the real test. But before the lights went out at the starting line, the car caught fire. Fortunately, employees arrived quickly with a fire extinguisher and were able to save the car. Unfortunately, it wasn't roadworthy, but there was a spare car.

However, the spare car was not a significant upgrade over the original car as it ran off the track even before the first timed lap. Thus the experiment was a miserable failure. The AI ​​cars never made it to the start, but Top Gear was able to time the first car's test laps and came up with a result 10 seconds slower than The Stig. The AI ​​will be developed to be better over the next few years, but racers like The Stig will likely have an advantage for a few more years.
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