The Performance and Racing Industry Show has always proven to be a valuable event for many organizations and companies to show off their new technologies and latest products to the largest audience of racers in the world. With over 1200 companies at the large trade show, there’s something for just about everyone. One of those many companies was APEX Pro with their newly unveiled Digital Driving Coach, a device that aims to intuitively improve driver lap times.
At first glance, the Digital Driving Coach (DDC) is a small, simple box that mounts on the dashboard of any car with one row of LED lights and a single button. Though it may seem similar, the DDC is not a predictive lap timer – it doesn’t even record time. The DDC collects a manifold of data, learns overall performance of the car, and displays the information in an intuitive display, easily digestable in even the most cacophonic of environments.
Co-founders Andrew Rains, Austin Gurley and Ross Wesson aim to change the game for driverless coaching with APEX Pro. Rains, who also pilots a Honda Accord in the Touring Car class of the Pirelli World Challenge on the weekends, has been using the Digital Driving Coach with his own driving and played a large part in development. Gurley, who’s currently pursuing a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, worked with Rains in Formula SAE to help come up with the idea. Director of Business for APEX Pro, Wesson believes there’s a large market for the Digital Driving Coach.
“Its meeting a need that every driver has, that isn’t currently being met,” Wesson commented. “It’s been a long time in the making and is a complete offering in driverless coaching.”
What goes on inside the box is anything but simple. The DDC uses GPS and an inertial measurement unit to gather a variety of parameters before using a proprietary machine learning algorithm to build real-time models of the session. The sensors combine to measure acceleration, rate of rotation, direction with digital compass, and speed of the vehicle to construct two models; the vehicle and the track. The vehicle model features such measurements as tire grip on the track, engine power, and aerodynamic grip while the track model focuses on straights and corners, banking and cresting, the apex grip limit and trajectories of corner entry and exits.
The DDC takes all this data and learns the theoretical performance of the vehicle in real time. The DDC compares real-time conditions to the theoretical max performance to determine how close the vehicle is being pushed to the limit. It reduces all the parameters into a single score and displays the results in a single row of LED lights on the front of the device.
The amount of red lights shows the theoretical performance of the vehicle while the green lights show what the current level of performance is. Simply put: if mostly green lights are shown, the car is being pushed close to the maximum potential; more red lights indicate room to push the car more with driver inputs.
Inside the box, the DDC features and ARM Cortex processor (not unlike the one in most smartphones), a 12-bit precision accelerometer, a 16-bit precision gyroscope, a nine-axis IMU and a rechargeable LiPo battery capable of 16 hours of drive time. All this technology fits inside the elegant, low profile dash display that weighs only 3.9 oz and is less than four inches long and just over an inch wide. The whole unit attaches magnetically to a mount that can be placed anywhere on the dash.
The industrial design of the DDC hints at more of an Apple-like simplicity than the motorsport-style form follows function philosophy. The neatly-packaged device features a single row of 12 LEDs on the front with a single button on the side. The device can be easily removed from its magnetic mount and moved to another car or brought inside for charging.
The Digital Driving Coach currently retails for $1200 and can be purchased at ApexTrackCoach.com/shop. More information about the Digital Track Coach and the ways that APEX Pro aims to change the driver coaching industry can be found at their website at ApexTrackCoach.com.