• Apr 1, 2007
Click image to see high res gallery of this unbelievable car!

The Seat Leon is a holy terror on the European touring car circuit, but bad luck and driver error can often mean less than perfect results. So the team has been hard at work creating a virtual interface for the vehicle to take the human error out of the equation. By eliminating the driver, the car can be driven remotely and consistent fast laps are a virtual certainty. It's really unbelievable that nobody has been able to accomplish such a feat before now. And the way in which they've done it makes it look like child's play. In fact, it's as easy as driving a remote control car. No driver means less weight, so it's likely the team will have to carry ballast to make it more realistic competition -- a lot of it if it's supposed to simulate team manager and remote-control jockey Scott Dennis, according to driver Jason Plato). If they didn't, they'd be toying with the rest of the field.

Plato and fellow Seat Sport UK driver Darren Turner aren't too keen on the robotic car, but Scott Dennis says that they'd better get used to it. The advanced electronic system uses computers to replicate driver inputs while controlled from the comfort of the pits by Dennis. Dubbed the Telematics Remote-Information Control Kit, it is sure to surprise more than a few other drivers when it debuts April 1 at the season-opening race at Brands Hatch. The other teams would be foolish not to hop on board and try the TRICK system themselves.

Full release after the jump.

[Source: SEAT Sport UK]
Strictly embargoed until: 1st April 2007

SEAT UK TRIALS THE WORLD'S FIRST DRIVERLESS TOURING CAR

SEAT Sport UK is pioneering breathtaking new technology that could soon deliver the ultimate in 21st Century motor racing – the driverless touring car. Cutting-edge developments in electronics, virtual reality and on-board computers have enabled the SEAT team to create probably the most advanced remote control car in the world.

The unique Leon Touring Car could potentially join the two other SEAT Sport track cars – operated in more traditional fashion by humans Jason Plato and Darren Turner – in the 2007 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship. Using a system developed in the UK by SEAT, called Telematics Remote-Information Control Kit, this car opens up all sorts of possibilities on the race circuit.

Controlled with the help of numerous on-board cameras, microphones and a plethora of computer data, the 'Virtual Leon' could give real drivers a stiff challenge. Indeed, at its first outing in a recent test at Rockingham, the sophisticated Leon put in a lap time marginally quicker than both Plato's and Turner's.

Of course, no piece of advanced technology can exist without the considerable skills and dedication of a top development team. And key to the whole project is SEAT UK Motorsport Manager Scott Dennis, who controls the car from the comfort of the pit-garage.

'This amazing car's development has been a huge learning curve,' said Scott. 'But we are now at the stage where it could soon be used in a touring car race – maybe even as soon as Sunday 1st April, which is the very first race of the season at Brands Hatch. This Leon is so rapid I'm beginning to question if I'll need drivers at all next year.'

Jason Plato, a BTCC driver with considerable experience of racing while actually sat behind the wheel, was surprised to be outpaced by a car with no one in it. 'Obviously it's a bit disconcerting being passed by an empty car when you're giving it your all, though I have to say it does have a fair old weight advantage over every other touring car.'

Plato's observation has already been noted by SEAT's competitors, who are demanding a significant weight penalty should the special Leon be permitted to race this weekend. Said Plato: 'Normally this would be around 75 kg to simulate a driver's weight, but in the case of Scott, a special 'Pub Ballast' of 160 kg has been suggested.'

(ends)


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 12 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      Why all the damn whining?

      It's April Fools. Things like this are expected.

      Underlining the credibility of AutoBlog and others....? Huh? It'd be one thing if posts like this came out every few days, weeks or maybe even months but grow up a little.

      Unless your paying your hard-earned cash to each member of the AutoBlog team (or parent Weblogs Inc.), or you have some drastic aversion to some funny, creative posting now and then, pick from one of the following choices:
      A) calm down, take a breather and let some fun ensue or
      B) check out another post or blog/site/magazine and avoid the April Fools "nonsense"...

      • 7 Years Ago
      April Fool?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Here I was searching for something serious on Darren Turner the Canadian racer from Kelowna, BC. and I find this frivilous waste of 1's and 0's.

        There is a Canadian racing driver, also named Darren Turner, at http://darrenturner.ca
        The one from the UK isn't the only one out there!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Thats a Joke right? And its not really funny.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Can it pick spagetti from the tree for me?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Boy, some of you readers need to lighten up! Laugh a little!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Sadly, this is hardly an April Fool's Day prank. Autonomous racing is merely the latest in-car-nation of a sinister plot to remove those terribly unreliable hue-mahn "drivers" from the personal mobility equation.

      Seat is part of Ferdinand Piech's ever-expanding automotive empire. All your hairpins are belong to VW AG Porsche AG!

      http://video.google.de/videoplay?docid=-8572647418013985611&q=%22top+gear%22+vw
      http://video.google.de/videoplay?docid=8594517128412883394&q=darpa+challenge
      http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/docs/urb_challenge_announce.pdf
      • 7 Years Ago
      Agree with number 4. It's SO predictable anymore that it's no longer funny.

      And I do know how to laugh - god knows I do enough of it reading some of the crazy comments posted here....

      -IB
      • 7 Years Ago
      "The advanced electronic system uses computers to replicate driver inputs while controlled from the comfort of the pits by Dennis. Dubbed the Telematics Remote-Information Control Kit, it is sure to surprise more than a few other drivers when it debuts April 1 at the season-opening race at Brands Hatch. The other teams would be foolish not to hop on board and try the TRICK system themselves."

      wait, so this is allowed in touring car? is this just a demo or are they going to be racing against drivers in cars?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Dear Mrs. /Mr.
      Could you please provide us with some information about driverless buses?
      & which companies produce it?
      We hope to receive this information as soon & we remain

      Thanks and best regards.

      Eng.Yasser badr
      Mechanical department.
      sbgmoi branch.
      yabdelhay@sbgmoi.com


      • 7 Years Ago
      It's not driver-less, it's remotely-driven. Huge difference. And anybody who thinks even for a moment that a remotely-driven race car would be an improvement over a directly-driven race car needs their head examined. Limited field of view, almost no physical feedback, broadcast delay... this sucks as an April Fool's article. A DRIVERLESS car, using a computer to keep the car on the ideal racing line, that I might have believed someone was trying, for a second or two anyway, but this is just stupid.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I hate pril fools. I hope nothing really interesting ever happens on an April 1st.

      I'm reading all these headlines today and wonderig which ones might just be BS.

      Most of the "joks" aren't even funny. They just undermine the credibility of blogs like this and insult the intelligence of the readers

      /rant