A new advantage will be granted to Audi’s drivers next month in the 24 Hours of Le Mans: a rear-view mirror. It wasn’t possible to see behind the R18 race car until now, thanks to a tiny rear-mounted camera.
Previously, the engine made it impossible for a rear-view mirror to allow the driver to look directly behind the car. Audi dealt with the engine problem by mounting a camera at the car’s rear and a screen inside the cockpit. The automaker says this new technology will allow for significantly improved safety because traditional mirrors mounted to offer a side view can only give a limited viewing range and are less reliable at high speeds.
“This gives us a whole host of benefits,” Audi Motorsport boss Wolfgang Ullrich said. “The operation of the mirror is weather-neutral. 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.”
It probably seems particularly strange that something like this hasn’t happened until now. Cameras are easily available, after all, but dealing with a video system that has to function at more than 200 mph isn’t that simple.
Cameras add weight, so until recently setting a rear-view monitor didn’t merit the disadvantage. That’s no longer the case now that cameras can be lightweight and only a few millimeters wide.
Even with technology like that, screens capable of accurately capturing motion at those speeds were also unavailable until very recently. Audi uses an active matrix organic light emitting diode (AMOLED) screen with super-high resolution and a fast enough refresh rate and response time to accurately depict things passing that quickly without motion blur.
“The system was initially installed in an Audi R8 in which we sent Marcel Fässler and Marco Bonanomi out to test it in road traffic,” Ullrich said. “Today, the system functions perfectly in the Audi R18 LMP race car.”