The Formula E team Mahindra Racing introduced an AI female as its ambassador and “go-to sustainable tech champ,” only to quickly backpedal on the decision after a fan backlash.
The AI ambassador, called Ava Beyond Reality, was portrayed as a young brunette tech queen from England who got the job as a behind-the-scenes reporter over the Formula E championship season, Mahindra Racing explained on its Instagram account.
The Indian-owned team wanted Ava to interact with drivers and help “shine a new light” on their progress in the electric championship, according to Reuters.
However, the move was quickly interpreted as an insult and a reluctance to hire a human woman, causing backlash on social media. Many negative reactions were posted on the now-deleted Instagram profile, some recommending actual reporters, some expressing frustration.
“Seriously? Is this a joke? What a literal slap in the face to the face to the women who actually enjoy the sport and would have gone above and beyond in this role,” one of the fan’s reactions reads.
The AI reporter lasted less than 48 hours as Frederic Bertrand, CEO and Team Principal of Mahindra Racing, quickly realized the mistake. In his post on X, he explained that the Ava program was designed with innovation, nurturing diversity, and inclusion in mind.
“Your comments hold tremendous value. We have listened, understood, and decided to discontinue the project,” Bertrand said.
Women have a hard time establishing themselves in motorsport. Fewer than five percent of elite-level drivers identify as female, and only 10-20% among engineers or racing team members in top series like Formula 1, Car and Driver reported.
Formula E started its 10th season on January 13th in Mexico City. The series has no female race drivers but offers a 'Girls on Track' program for 12 to 18-year-olds with work experience and workshops, as well as putting a participant on the podium after every race to highlight female inclusion, Reuters noted.
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