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My Tech: Nicki Shields

The TV presenter, 32, on driverless cars and why Formula E is better than F1

For the unconverted, how would you describe Formula E?

It’s a fully electric racing championship. The cars are single-seaters, are electrically powered by a battery and race on street circuits around the world.

How is it better than Formula One?

The only parts of the car the teams can change are the motor, inverter [which changes direct current to alternating current] and gearbox. It’s much more of a level playing field. We’ve had four champions over the past four years. It’s very unpredictable and you can expect plenty of action.

What innovations are you excited about in Formula E?

They’ve doubled the battery capacity for season five, which is amazing in terms of efficiency. Batteries have become much more efficient in a short space of time and the cars are more powerful and faster — they go nought to 60mph in three seconds.

What’s the crossover with e-sports?

E-sports is talked about as a new billion-dollar industry and there is also a big racing community that’s part of that. It’s effectively sim racing — racing in the virtual world. It gives big gamers the opportunity to compete in big arenas. Formula E has its own e-sports championship.

Have you played any racing games yourself?

I did an event at Mercedes-Benz World and I got the fastest track time on a racing simulator but I’m certainly nowhere near as good as the people who spend eight hours a day racing in the virtual world.

Are you looking forward to driverless cars?

Absolutely. I love driving and I never want that to go away but I hate sitting in traffic. I’m looking forward to the efficiency of being able to sit back and relax in a driverless car. Autonomous cars will be brilliant for city driving and to automate the flow of traffic. We’re still a way off but there are a few places that are already carrying out tests — they’re testing an autonomous bus in Milton Keynes.

Our car’s electric: The BMW i3, Porsche Mission E concept (below) and Formula E in New York City


Does your car have fancy features?

I drive a BMW i3, which is fully electric. I can charge it at work or the gym, I can drive it in London without paying the congestion charge because it’s electric. It does nought to 30mph faster than most sports cars, which is all you need driving in a city, and it enables me to nip into parking spaces before other people.

What would be your dream car?

Porsche is bringing out the Mission E next year, which is fully electric and looks incredible.

You founded a social media business — what did it entail?

It was called Starcount and we started it seven years ago. It was the first way of measuring social media popularity. This was just at the point where the music charts were no longer done through record sales but through downloads. Our idea was about how many YouTube views you had, how many Twitter followers and Facebook fans — Instagram wasn’t around then — and we did it as a global measure of fame based on your social media popularity. We used lots of platforms all over the world. The main business became data analytics and we eventually sold it.

What did you learn about social media?

How valuable it is. It has transformed the media landscape. With a bit of social media analysis it can change your strategy — you can discover you have a fanbase in Japan you weren’t aware of. People think they understand but you need the data to drive it and, from a marketing perspective, what your demographic are doing.

Shields presents Formula E on 5Spike, BT Sport and Eurosport