Macau Matters | A Robotic Macau Grand Prix

Richard Whitfield

Richard Whitfield

The entrepreneurs who created the Macau Grand Prix did a wonderful thing, but the government department that has managed it for many years has done nothing to improve on their vision – in fact it has just stultified and become irrelevant. We need to totally re-imagine the Macau Grand Prix and a MOP300 million project to rejuvenate the museum is just silly.
We need to make the Macau Grand Prix relevant to the world stage.
I can remember a few years ago when some forward thinking people were proposing an e-Grand Prix for Macau and they were totally ignored. Now, that ship has sailed because an e-Prix is being held in Hong Kong in October this year. Once again, our Macau government officials have totally “missed the boat”.
However, there is still an opportunity that if we have courage we can develop – a robotic e-Prix.
Most of the world’s car companies are actively competing to develop autonomous computer controlled vehicles, and popular predictions suggest that they are only 10-20 years away. It is clear that they will first become viable in controlled driving situations – and what is more controlled than racing? In racing the driving route is totally defined, and there are no unpredictable events except for other drivers (no other vehicles or pedestrians are permitted on the track).
Most modern artificial intelligence systems are based on Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs) that rely on training data. For at least 15 years racing cars have incorporated extensive sensor information and have had video cameras “looking” at the road ahead and behind each vehicle – this is a huge amount of training data. I believe that it should be quite possible to train an ANN to become another Michael Schumacher or other famous recent racing driver based on existing data. Recent tests have proven that ANNs can beat the best human competitors at Chess, Jeopardy and Go – so why not car racing drivers?
If we can train computers to be as good, as or better than, the best recent racing drivers, it is a relatively simple problem to get them to drive Formula 3 vehicles that have been “robotised”, i.e. have had their controls changed so that a computer can drive the car, similar to a drone airplane.
I am sure that it would take a few years of research to perfect an autonomous computer controlled Formula-3 racing car, but if we are courageous and start now it could easily become a world renowned race in the next 10 years. I am sure that many of the worlds companies looking to develop autonomous vehicles would see a Macau Robotic Grand Prix as a key way of demonstrating their technologies.
I am sure that other places are considering such initiatives, but we have the track record and scale to do it better. We just need government officials with vision and competence. I would be much happier spending MOP300 million on such a forward looking venture than on renovating the Macau Grand Prix Museum! Why not try to take the lead in a globally emerging technology that will change the face of our planet.


Categories Opinion