By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine
Racing, they say, improves the breed. Nonsense, say others who argue that most racing upgrades are simply based on the available technology of the times. For sure, the rigors of racing provide an excellent proving ground, but whether it generates something truly new is an open question.
One common example is the rear view mirror; it’s highly touted as being “invented” for an Indianapolis 500-mile race decades ago. First use on a race track perhaps, but not likely the first ever occasion of a driver wanting to see behind the car.
The circle always closes, and it’s a mirror story again—Audi has just revealed its development and application of a rear-looking digital video system. It’s being touted as a possible replacement for the venerable reflective glass mirror. The “digital mirror” will appear on the company’s R18 race cars at the 24 Hours of LeMans. The company also says they expect further development to make the system usable for street cars.
The system uses a small, rear facing hi-def camera mounted on the roof of the enclosed race car’s cockpit and connects to an “active matrix organic light emitting diode” (AM-OLED) display mounted in the center of the inside cockpit roof. The full color display, similar to ones used in cell phones and other devices, gives a clear view to the rear of the car and, being digital, can use auto-dimming and other tricks to maintain picture quality and stability for use at night, in bad weather or at high speeds.
Additionally, the digital screen can be used to display supplementary information to the driver; Audi currently uses it for gear selection and traction information. The system was prototyped, developed and tested by Audi AG’s Technical Development branch on a street-legal R8.
But company officials noted that they make no claims for the new system appearing on their street vehicles any time soon. At present, they said, that would involve safety legislation in many countries and a number of other issues as well.
The digital rear view system did appear on Audi’s racecars for the May race at Spa, Belgium but both cars retained their fender mounted outside mirrors as well. Audi noted they are expecting that “The intensity of motorsport, such as the Le Mans 24 Hours, will cause the system to mature at an accelerated pace.”
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