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When Toyota’s NASCAR racing team wanted to give its cars and drivers an advantage, it built a custom tablet app to use at the track.
Before the app, engineers and drivers were recording performance data on a laptop and the driver had to get out of his seat to look at it. Enter an app called Trackside, which Toyota built on Windows 8.
Trackside collects the car’s performance data, and that info is shared with the crew and driver simultaneously in real time. It also captures data on how the other teams are doing in comparison.
The tablet has become a critical tool for the race car driver. There’s so much noise on the track, it’s not easy for the driver to speak to and hear the mechanics and other support staff.
“The driver is wearing a helmet, the crew chief is wearing a headset, and everyone is shouting in a wind storm while cars scream by at speeds of more than 175 MPH,” lead software developer Darren Jones says.
So typing in an app is an easier way to make sure information is shared.
The choice of hardware was also important in that rough environment. The team made the unconventional choice of picking the Microsoft Surface Pro tablet. We asked Steve Wickham, the team’s vice president, Chassis Operations, why he chose the Surface instead of other tablets, or even the iPad.
“We tested several tablets, and we chose Surface Pro because it delivered all the power and performance of a laptop PC — in a tablet package. Surface Pro allows our TRD team, drivers and crew chiefs to use the device as a tablet or laptop, and it has excellent screen visibility in outdoor lighting, which is essential when working at the track,” Wickham told us.
Here’s a video of the app in action (requires Microsoft Silverlight plug-in).
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