Esports and sim racing have truly come to the fore as the world deals with the ongoing restrictions imposed by the Coronavirus pandemic. Millions of racing enthusiasts are getting their adrenaline kick in an online world, finding the optimum racing line on software that is increasingly blurring the lines between ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ racing.
Participants are using cutting edge technology and data to hone their driving skills well away from the road or racetrack. It’s an area where Cosworth Electronics has excelled since the late 1980s, leading electronics innovations in motorsport that have led to equal breakthroughs on public roads.
Since the formation of the company’s electronics division in 1987, then known as Pi Research, it has existed to set the benchmark. The launch of the Black Box became the first electronic dash display and combined data logger to be used in professional motorsport. For the first time, teams could evaluate if changes they made to the car actually delivered a competitive advantage.
Into a new Millennium, Cosworth introduced another first with the Video Indexed Data System, known by its acronym, VIDS. The first iteration, VIDS1 as it would become known, was the origin of Cosworth’s video and data logging family, which would ultimately lead to its present-day Performance Data Recorder (PDR) and AliveDrive systems.
VIDS1 operated at up to 30 frames per second using a solitary colour analogue camera for NTSC or PAL. The system was audio-free in its first guise, encoding video in MPEG1 format onto PCMCIA memory cards. Demonstrating the rate of progress over the past two decades, in the early 2000s we were still talking a mere 256 megabytes of memory. In its day, VIDS1 helped to develop Cosworth’s pioneering reputation in motorsport electronics, leading to an improved second generation in the middle of the decade.
Around 2005-6, Cosworth launched VIDS2 with improvements throughout the system, including the introduction of audio (stereo MPEG-1, layer 2 audio encoding at 256kbits/s). Video was now MPEG2 encoded at around 752×582 resolution. Capturing moving images at 30 frames per second for NTSC or 25 for PAL, VIDS2 made use of up to 16 synchronised cameras via Controller Area Network (CAN), with increased memory of 2GB using Compact Flash
Throughout the 2000s, VIDS1 and VIDS2 became revolutionary technology for synchronising video with logged data. For the first time, teams could cross-reference how their car and driver were performing on-track. These were the foundations of Cosworth’s connected car solutions which, to this day, help race teams perform at their best and are driving improvements in safety and car performance on the roads.
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