The 2023 Formula One season may be off to a slow start, with standings that do not smile on the Prancing Horse team either in terms of constructors or drivers, but it seems Ferrari has already found a way to “train”, so to speak, a new generation of talent.
The Maranello company has filed a patent a brand new driving assistant system which is able to determine, while driving, the exact position and orientation of the car within a track, to show the driver not only the best trajectory with which to approach a certain curve or section of the track, but also how best to tackle it, measuring the accelerator and brakes.
The Ferrari’s approach
Ferrari’s idea is simple: “Ferraristi”, i.e. drivers of Ferrari’s vehicles, are often (not say always) unable (or have no way) to exploit the full potential of such a high-performance car on regular roads. Many Ferraristi therefore choose, sooner or later, to test-drive on closed circuit tracks, to fully enjoy all the horsepower of those “raging” engines. However, the rules on the road and on closed circuit tracks are completely different and therefore for those who are not familiar with driving on closed circuit track the approach to driving on a real closed circuit track is rather difficult.
For this reason, Ferrari has created a true virtual driving assistant, consisting of a new suite of technologies that aims to literally teach drivers how to brake, accelerate and steer so as to become better drivers, lap after lap.
How the new Ferrari’s technology works
It is perhaps true that several car manufacturers already have similar technologies in place, with LEDs, light displays or signals on the steering wheel, however all these elements have one thing in common: they divert the driver’s gaze from the road to the dashboard. A distraction that can be potentially fatal, especially when driving at high speeds.
Instead, the Maranello company’s intuition is to insert these signals directly into the windscreen, which thus also becomes an “additional monitor”. To enable the full integration of these functions, however, some “external” devices are also needed, such as a tracking device (GPS, LIDAR, ARVA or RECCO) and a gyroscope, to always detect the spatial orientation of the vehicle. Through an advanced tracking system, the car itself is able to tell the driver the optimum trajectory to follow and the ideal behaviour to adopt at each passage of the circuit, advising when and how to start braking, swerving or accelerating to get the most out of the horsepower and grit under the bonnet.
There’s more. The steering wheel and seat can also become additional carriers of these signals, activating a vibration to communicate with the driver in moments of “emergency”: for example when the car understeers or oversteers, or when the brake pedal is pressed too hard, to remind the driver it is time to open the throttle.
Lastly, the patent also envisages the potential installation of a resistive accelerator pedal, capable of resisting when the driver overuses acceleration, thus turning the Ferrari into a real electronic driving instructor and bringing the driving experience closer to that of a video game.
This patent, published at the end of March 2023 at the USPTO, follows another one published back to the end of December 2022 and dedicated to the in-depth monitoring of the driver’s psychophysical state in order to improve the driving experience.
In this case, the car would be able to analyse the whole palette of emotions and sensations that pervade drivers while driving, starting with their levels of stress, anxiety, fatigue or their degree of happiness, surprise or fear. The cockpit is therefore equipped with various sensors that, connected to other external devices, can record the drivers’ heartbeat, measure their ECG, blood oxygenation, body temperature and respiration, to name the main ones. All with the aim of creating a perfect synergy between car and driver. In short, there will soon be no more excuses for the “drivers” of a Ferrari, which now combines simulator and practical tests in a single track session.