Porsche is working on technology that utilises the sensors and software of future autonomous vehicle technology to act as a demonstration and training tool for future models.
The technology would allow owners to sit in their own car and experience a lap of a race track as though Mark Webber was at the wheel – all without touching the pedals or steering wheel.
Speaking at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show Porsche CEO Oliver Blume nominated Webber – a Porsche ambassador and World Endurance Champion driving a Porsche – as the ideal driver to set reference laps for the advanced track-focused autonomous technology.
“When you go on a race track there is an opportunity,” said Blume. “Mark Webber drives you [virtually] through the race track and you see where the car is braking, where you’re accelerating, which is the perfect line for the race track.
“Afterwards you’re driving by yourself and match and learn, okay, Mark Webber brakes there, accelerating there…”
Blume said as well as the thrill of experiencing a lap of a track in a Porsche at the pace Mark Webber would attack it, such technology could also be used as a virtual driver training tool.
“It can make you a better driver, safe learning system,” he said.
It’s not the first time car makers have toyed with the idea of exploring the limits of a car on a race track using autonomous technology.
BMW and Audi have both shown what development cars are capable of with spectacular high speed track demonstrations of a car being driven by a computer.
While the prospect of having a computer control a car on a race track may seem like the pinnacle of autonomous technology, it’s actually relatively easy due to the controlled nature of a track environment; all cars are travelling in the same direction and at a similar speed and there are no outside influences such as pedestrians, for example.
The Porsche boss is clearly excited about the prospect of embracing such technology, later reiterating that it would be a unique experience for owners.
“It’s Mark Webber; you are sitting there in the car, the car is driving for you like Mark Webber. Afterwards you’re driving by yourself,” said Blume. “It might be a very interesting option.”
However, Blume said Porsche was not interested in autonomous pods that would take the excitement out of driving, something key to the Porsche appeal.
“The most important thing for us in future will be a car that will be driven by yourself,” he said. “The most important thing for Porsche drivers is to drive. We’ll have a steering wheel in future – always.”
But Blume said future Porsches would take advantage of the imminent arrival of autonomous technology, using it to relieve the boredom of driving in some situations.
“For example, when you are in a traffic jam the car will be able to move you through the traffic jam, you in parallel will be able to read a newspaper,” said Blume. “When you are going to a restaurant in the evening and everything is fully parked the car is looking for parking and at the end you can go for the car and it will fetch you from the restaurant.”
No word on when to expect a Mark Webber performance button on your Porsche, but best guesses suggest it could be something we hear more of in a few years.