Driver optional in the windowless ED Torq race car

Italian design firm ED showed off Torq, an autonomous car designed for the race track, here at the 2015 Geneva auto show.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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ED Torq
Design firm ED showed off the Torq self-driving race car at the Geneva auto show. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

GENEVA -- To reach the top, race drivers must have incredible skill and endurance to pilot cars at speeds of 200 mph for hours around a track, but the era of autonomous cars may make them obsolete. Italian design company ED brought its Torq self-driving race car to the Geneva auto show, likely upsetting many F1 fans.

The Torque sits on an open wheel racing suspension, but its featureless body shows no cockpit opening. The lightweight white body looks very aerodynamic without the bulge of a windshield.

With four electric motors, one at each wheel, ED notes that Torq's drivetrain produces 1,327 pound-feet of torque. Its lithium-ion battery pack stores 88 kilowatt-hours of electricity, more than the Tesla Model S with its 85 kilowatt-hour battery pack. Despite the 1,212 pound battery pack, the total weight of the Torq race car is only 2,205 pounds (1,000 kg). Its top speed is rated at 155 mph.

ED Torq: The autonomous race car (pictures)

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ED's press materials cite a goal of running a 4-minute lap at Le Mans, making about 12 laps on a battery charge.

While some people might want to watch a pack of robot race cars hum around a track, ED recognizes most of the public still appreciates human race drivers. As such, the Torq actually does feature a cockpit under its featureless shell. The company envisions a driver would see the road outside through a camera and screen system.

The car would include an autonomous assistant, but still let the driver show off her skills. And here's where it gets a little fuzzy. ED admits that it doesn't know how autonomous driving and a human driver would interact. It offers the Torq as what it calls a Mobile Autonomous Automobile Laboratory so that automakers and other companies can conduct research, with production expected in the next two years.

Read more of CNET's coverage from the 2015 Geneva auto show.