It really shouldn’t be so, but many of us have a deep and abiding resentment about being beat by a machine. Why shouldn’t it be so? Just ask the question, “Why did we build this in the first place?” Machines are built to do work we don’t want to, or can’t, or can’t do as well or as quickly.
When it comes to being beat by a computer though, we seem to appreciate it even less. Whether playing chess or Jeopardy, computers have shown themselves capable of astonishing performance within their usually limited domains.
In the realm of automotive performance, some things are best left to the machine… most of the time. These days, most regular road-going cars have anywhere from thirty to upwards of a hundred onboard processors, handling everything from cabin temperature regulation to braking performance.
We still like to reserve certain functions as the exclusive realm of superior human performance, and so, it was with this sort of ego strength that the editors at Car & Driver took on the challenge to see who would win a launch shootout – human or machine.
The real question is not how to do it, but who gets the best results. The “how” of it all is pretty straightforward. After many attempts to find an optimal engine speed for launch, hold that engine speed until the appropriate time. Depending on your preferred technique and the fullness of your wallet, either release the clutch pedal quickly, or just sidestep it.
At this point, the tires are rolling but nothing is moving. Modulate the throttle to achieve an ideal twenty percent tire slippage and shortly after that, just bury the pedal. Shift gears as required. Once you’ve got the technique right, do it exactly the same every time from there on.
C&D actually gathered a few cars for their testing, but all the others had German names. The Corvette ZR1 was the only car in which a skilled human could beat the microcircuits, albeit by a matter of 0.2 seconds to 60 MPH and a skimpy 0.1 seconds in the quarter mile. With the other cars being FWD and AWD, any attempt at comparison is nothing more than a fool’s game.
With five different programs available for the ZR1′s Selective Ride Control (wet, dry, sport, sport with stability control off, and race), we’re pretty sure that most folks will select an appropriate program when that cretin with the hot pickup pulls up beside them. It’s best to leave nothing to chance in circumstances like that.