High end motorsport technology often gets passed down to road cars, but occasionally, that tech exchange flows in the opposite direction. Case in point: rear view camera systems. They’re a common sight in everyday road cars, but will make their first appearance in Audi’s LMP sports prototypes at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours.
Normally, it’s damn-near impossible for a driver to see what’s going on behind a Le Mans Prototype car. The cars have tiny, ineffectual wing mirrors that vibrate at high speed and have no use for rear view mirrors due to the fact they have no rear windscreens.
By installing a lightweight camera a few millimetres behind the antennas on the roof of the Audi R18, and an advanced Amoled screen in the cabin, Audi has given its drivers half a chance to see and react to cars closing in behind them.
The screen in the cabin isn’t any ordinary display. Audi has chosen an AMOLED, or active-matrix organic light emitting diode screen, of the sort normally used on high-end mobile phones. The screen provides a brighter, more vibrant and saturated colour set than ordinary LCD displays.
This type of screen is often used for watching movies on, as it has very deep blacks for excellent contrast. But it turns out it’s also great for automotive use, as it delivers better picture quality than physical mirrors and in a wider range of circumstances.
“The operation of the mirror is weather-neutral,” said Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, head of Audi Motorsport. “By contrast, when using outside mirrors, heavy water spray severely impairs the driver’s field of vision when it rains. For the new digital mirror, we worked out various day and night driving modes. Even when a rival approaches from the rear with high-beam headlights the image is superb and not just a glaring light spot.”
The screens are freely programmable and can also be used to display a wealth of other information. Audi is currently using them to show the gear that is currently selected, the slip level of the tyres and selected warning lights.
Audi has suggested that OLED displays used in LMP cars could make their way into road cars in the near future. Fingers crossed, eh? As ever, let us know your thoughts in the comments below, on Facebook or howl at us on Twitter.