The experience of driving is becoming increasingly digitized, as computers with lightning-fast reflexes control ever more of a car. YouTube’s Driven Media sought to find out, though, if the humans still have a role inside the car.
To do that, the channel took a Ferrari 488 Pista and did a couple of launches to test a human’s reaction times against a computer’s. The car is powered by a 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8 engine that makes 710 hp (529 kW/720 PS) and 568 lb-ft (770 Nm) of torque.
With all of that power being sent from the mid-mounted engine to the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, a Ferrari driver gets a few mechanical advantages to make up for the huge amount of tire-spinning power. Launch control seeks to give drivers one more.
As pro driver Scott Mansell puts it, launch control can measure out precisely as much torque as the rear wheels can handle before they break traction. Using sensors and equations, the car can do this in milliseconds, completely sidestepping the need for a human to sense a loss of grip, process it, and then react to it with their foot.
Sounds great, but how does it work in practice? Well, on this stretch of tarmac, on the day that Driven Media filmed this video, it works out to a best-possible quarter-mile time of 11.15 seconds. Without launch control, though, the driver is able to run the quarter-mile in just 11.18 seconds on his first attempt, which surprises him.
“That’s surprising. I think I can beat it! I actually think I can beat it because I got too much wheel spin then,” says Mansell. “I genuinely thought that the launch control was gonna absolutely dominate my feel.”
With a little effort, he manages to get a quarter-mile time of 10.99 seconds, actually beating the launch control. Now, he may have been helped a little bit by warming tires, improving conditions, and a lower fuel load, but, if nothing else, the test does prove that launch control isn’t some cheat code that will absolutely destroy humans every time. And that’s kind of reassuring.