Thursday, July 30, 2009

How racing influences our everyday's car - will our steering wheel look like this?

One reason car manufacturers like racing is that they can test new concepts before they arrive in mainstream cars. Many great innovations were tested successfully in racing before they were integrated in passenger cars. The double clutch transmission for example was used in Le Mans racing cars by Porsche long before Volkswagen and Audi adapted the concept for their normal cars. Ceramic brakes were pioneered in racing and the tyre technology also profited a lot from racing.
So when we look at racing cars we may be able to see technology that we will have in our daily drivers tomorrow. For example the steering wheel. There's no reason why we still want to have a "full circle" steering wheel. Modern steering systems allow to do almost every radius without taking the hand off the wheel. You may be worried about about the rich collection of buttons on the wheel, at least I would. But if a formula 1 driver can manage at speeds of 200 km/h and beyond, how couldn't we doing 60 km/h. However there are some good reasons why all the controls are integrated into the steering wheel in a formula 1 car. First, there's not too much more space in the cockpit to place the controls and secondly, the controls are good to reach without disturbing any aerodynamics and thirdly, it's all concentrated in one device offering engineering, production and quality assurance advantages. But none of these reasons hold really true for our daily drivers and honestly I am glad about large dials, a navigation screen and properly described buttons on my car. If you look at the just introduced Ferrari 458 though, quite a bit of the formula 1 approach has found its way into the production car.

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