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Noticeably Different How the future of sports cars will look. A thought exercise by Alexander Mankowsky, Daimler AG futurologist. In a letter to his shareholders, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently outlined the recipe for success for the online giant’s future. It ran something like this: Be skeptical of proxies! Resist their results! “Proxies” are measured indicators — for example, from market and customer research — that are used to discern success. According to Bezos, you shouldn’t place your trust in these proxies because they aren’t future-oriented. More important for looking ahead at what’s to come are empathy, gut feeling, intuition, vision, curiosity, playfulness and good taste. So said Bezos. The very same man who, 22 years ago, exposed the book trade to the greatest disruption in its history with the phrase “Customers who bought this item also bought...” But what about if you transfer Bezos’ recommendation for Amazon’s future over to motorsport? Are proxies like performance, acceleration or racing success visionary enough? In modern motorsport devices at least, the technological design has physically alienated driver and vehicle: The car wants to be programmed. It provides data and requires you to press the right button at the right time. Good old intuition recedes into the background — and with it also the fun. Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, a famous neuroscientist at Duke University’s Center for Neuroengineering in North Carolina, is best known for his work with exoskeletons. Designed for paraplegic patients, these externally worn supporting structures are controlled by means of the brain’s neural impulses. However, only visual feedback to the brain is possible; the patient can see that he or she is moving but cannot feel it. So Nicolelis asked himself: Can our brain learn to accept technology-based signals as its own sense perceptions? In 2013, he conducted a successful experiment to that end. In his test lab, signals were transmitted to rats via an infrared sensor placed between their ears. In this way, the clever animals learned how to “see” in infrared. They found their hidden food, even though the clues lay in the biologically invisible infrared range. Everything was a question of deliberate training. If joy and enthusiasm are still to be the number-one priority in the sports car of the future, then getting there will be a matter of getting the driver to conjoin physically with the machine through training. In the sports car of the future, you won’t have to look nervously in the rearview mirror. Though the vehicle’s sensors you will well and truly feel your pursuers breathing down your neck. The heat of the batteries will be perceptible as a burning of energy after a short sprint. Your own muscle tension is transferred to the engine. If you were to extend Miguel Nicolelis’ experiments into the future, a “cap” to which the signals from the vehicle’s sensor system are sent will suffice for a transmission of power like that. In combination with adequate training, of course. Nothing stands in the way of a further sensual fusion of man with exciting sports car technology. Quite the contrary. 59


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