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Mahindra Formula E team kills off AI influencer after social media backlash

Mahindra's Formula E team has killed off an AI-generated influencer it had put in an ambassadorial role after it was met with backlash online.

Mahindra Racing AI influencer

Mahindra Racing

Mahindra announced on Tuesday it had launched an AI-generated influencer named Ava, which was designed to "showcase the team's journey in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, and towards a more sustainable future for our planet", the team explained in a press release.

Mahindra used generative artificial intelligence services like Midjourney and Leonardo AI to create its new ambassador, with head of partnerships Roanne Crouse commenting: "Having Ava, an influencer that is strongly associated with us and documents our journey, but with a broader appeal to help promote our core values as an organisation, is a project we're hugely excited about."

On Instagram, the account @avabeyondreality described itself as a "Sustainable Tech Queen & Racing Rebel Robot", with its goal "fueling inclusion through AI innovation". It had been documenting the virtual influencer's life through 11 posts, the first of which dated back to 8 December.

The idea was met with backlash from fans and media alike on social media, with many reckoning the team should have hired a human ambassador rather than generated one via artificial intelligence.

Nyck de Vries, Mahindra Racing, Mahindra M9Electro

Photo by: Sam Bagnall / Motorsport Images

Nyck de Vries, Mahindra Racing, Mahindra M9Electro

"Mahindra creating an AI team ambassador that is a woman instead of simply hiring one real, actual woman to fill that role is so incredibly messed up," Devin Altieri, a PR consultant in motorsport, wrote on X (formerly Twitter).

Automotive journalist Alanis King added on the same platform: "I'm not an AI expert, but everything I see is about enormous energy use. Isn't it weird to call this a 'Sustainable Tech Champ'?"

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As a consequence, Mahindra has given up on that particular project. The Instagram account was deleted shortly after this news story was published.

"Nurturing diversity, inclusion and innovation is at the heart of Mahindra Racing", CEO and team principal Frederic Bertrand commented via X. "Our AI influencer program was designed with this innovation in mind.

"Your comments hold tremendous value. We have listened, understood and decided to discontinue the project."

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