Car driven by thought

F1’s dream Car driven by thought

Concept car would be capable of changing shape during a race and could repairs its own dents

It looks more Star Trek than starting grid, a science-fiction Formula One concept car for the future that not only thinks for itself by altering its shape during a race, but will also repair its own dents.

As F1 executives engage in yet another bout of political navel-gazing, McLaren unveiled technology that could appear on the race tracks in only a few years. Their McLaren MP4-X is an ultra-sexy, streamlined car packed with futuristic technology.

There is no “Beam me up, Scotty” feature — yet — but the hybrid car features a range of space-age gizmos and gadgets. The sidepods carry solar panels to harness power from the sun, while the aerodynamic bodywork can change shape during the race to fit the performance demands and conditions of each track. The “shape-shifting” technology would raise potential top speeds to unheralded levels above 200mph.

Power would come from thin batteries, built into the bodywork and stored in the structure of the car, which would also have special “soft” materials that can be bashed in an accident and then restore themselves to their original shape.

The driver would become akin to a fighter pilot, strapped into a cockpit covered by a safety canopy, viewing the track through a 360-degree display built into his crash helmet, augmented by a “heads-up” display capable of alerting him to messages on the track, or even rivals bearing down on his car.

Even further into the future, McLaren scientists are working on technology that would spookily allow the driver to steer his car simply by thinking or using gestures to control holographic instrument panels. The aerospace industry is already testing a brain cap that transfers brainwaves direct to a computer.

The driver’s race suit would be capable of generating and storing energy and carrying biosensors that would relay information on his physical condition to the garage. If there is an accident, medics would immediately read information from his race suit to start working on injuries.

Millions of fans will believe that this is fantasy technology, but McLaren are is pioneering advancements ?such as like these ?not just on the track, but in airports, hospitals and even deep-sea drilling in the North Sea. They say that technology can be transferred to the track, provideding F1 is ready to embrace the future.

The sport is locked in negotiations, worrying about the next two years, with Bernie Ecclestone, F1’s long-serving chief executive, and Jean Todt, president of the FIA, the sport’s governing body, mandated to sort out the chaos that has engulfed the F1 teams. Rising costs caused by the introduction of high-tech hybrid engines have caused financial and political tensions throughout the grid and put the two biggest teams in the sport, Mercedes and Ferrari, on a war footing with the F1 authorities.

All parties — the teams, Todt and Ecclestone — have agreed on the need for change and promise faster and noisier cars from 2017, when regulations governing the shape, size and power of cars are updated yet again.

But McLaren’s concept is likely to be a long way from the detailed drawing board under the sport’s present regime, even though fans would love to see such a futuristic car in action on the track.

John Allert, the McLaren Technology group brand director, remains optimistic that the MP4-X concept is a car that would bring many fans back to F1.

“We wanted to peer into the future and imagine the art of the possible,” he said.

“Formula One is the ultimate gladiatorial sport and the future we envisage will be a high-tech, high-performance showcase that excites fans like no other sport.”