Racing Technology That Has Made It to Everyday Vehicles

Hand adjusting rear view mirror.

Did you know many of the features in your vehicle came from racecars? The world of motorsports has produced many technological advancements that have proven useful not only for high-speed thrill-seekers, but for the safety and comfort of everyday drivers.

Let’s look at some parts of your vehicle that wouldn’t be where they are today without the work of racing innovations.

Transmissions

In the past, drivers had to choose between automatic or manual transmissions . Racing technology developed a third category: semi-automatic. This includes dual-clutch, clutchless manuals, and direct-shift gearboxes (DSG), which combine the simplicity of automatic transmissions with the manual option to change gears as you please. In North America, most production cars are made with a regular automatic transmission, but the addition of a manual mode to an automatic car is increasing in popularity.

Suspension

A regular suspension is called “passive” because it forces the tire to move the way the road dictates. Formula 1 racing was highly influential in developing “active” suspensions, which is what most vehicles today are built on. It allows each wheel to move on its own based on the conditions of the road without interfering with the other three. Thanks to auto racing technology, active suspensions can now send road surface data to the car’s computer to help the vehicle navigate different terrains.

AWD

All-wheel drive (AWD) had been seen in both production cars and racecars, but it really took off after the debut of the Audi Coupe Quattro in 1980. This car, designed with both the race track and road in mind, amazed automakers, leading them to make AWD a new standard for production vehicles. Today, virtually all racecars and sports cars use rear-wheel drive, but the majority of production cars have stuck with AWD.

Audi Quattro coupe
Audi Quattro Coupe

Tires

Although racing and regular tires differ in many aspects, racing developed the technology for both of them. The discovery of which tread pattern and groove depth worked best in what terrain were all made by motorsports technology.

Rearview Mirrors

During the first Indy 500 in 1911, most racers had a “riding mechanic” next to them to keep an eye out for cars coming up from behind. One racer, Ray Harroun, attached a piece of glass to his dashboard instead of having a passenger and ended up winning the race. Although this wasn’t the first time rearview mirrors were used, this is when they became highly popularized and began appearing in all vehicles.

Backup Camera

Backup cameras were featured in prototype vehicles as early as 1956. It wasn’t until 2012 that they became widely used, however. This was when the Audi R18 was fitted with a rearview camera instead of a mirror for the Le Mans 24 Hours because of a lack of space inside the car. After Audi won this race, rearview cameras were highly sought after in both racing cars and production vehicles. In 2018, these cameras became a safety requirement for all vehicles sold in North America.

Exterior Design

Although the purpose is for utility and not fashion, many see the sleek, smooth designs of racing cars as powerful and attractive. As a result, these designs are often translated into production cars, with various modifications to suit the regular road, of course. So, even though your passenger vehicle won’t be as aerodynamic as a Formula 1 car, it’s likely that part of its look was inspired by the racetrack.

Maintaining Your Vehicle

Although your production vehicle will never perform the same as the racecars that helped develop many of its parts, you can maximize its use and value by keeping up a good maintenance routine and detailing it whenever you have some free time. For more automotive tips and news, check out our blog.

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