From the track to the road

How safety features in modern cars are developed on the race track


For decades, Formula One has been the peak of motorsport, with modern safety devices being utilized from their cars. Image courtesy of Pixabay via Google Images.

Nickolas Hagy, Writer

Besides an engine and brakes, one of the most important parts of a car isare its safety features. Most people look for certain features on their cars, such as the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), roll cages, and even LED headlights are standard across most cars today. What most people probably do not know is that some of these features were developed on the race track, in racing series’ such as NASCAR, INDYCAR, Formula One, and even the World Endurance Championship (WEC). 

Perhaps the most obvious is the roll cage. First used in Formula One, the roll cage is now used in most major racing leagues, and can even be found on some road cars. One particular example is the Ford Fiesta Sedan. The roll cage is a system of sturdy metal bars that protect the driver from being crushed incase of a roll, in which the body of the car would most likely be crumpled. Another structural safety feature is the monocoque chassis. Developed from numerous different race cars, the solid monocoque structure is one of the safest chassis. Today, it can be found on many BMWs,  Jaguars, Porsches, and Bugattis.

The Anti-lock Braking System is a fairly new innovation. ABS helps stop the car under heavy braking without skidding the tires. Most noticeable in snow or slick weather, the ABS has prevented numerous accidents. However, this system was not made specifically with road cars in mind. First used in the Ferguson P99 racing car in the 1960s, it has been used since in almost every racing series in the world. It made its first appearance on a production car in 1978 onboard the Mercedes W116. 

To some people, learning that some of the most used safety features were not made for road cars first came as a surprise. James Lyon, a junior at Battlefield, says, “That does surprise me, although thinking retrospectively it really shouldn’t.” While there were those that were surprised, there were also those that were not.

Trey Guyton, who drives a 2006 Honda Accord, was not surprised to learn about the history of the systems in his car. “These are some of the highest performance cars out there. It makes sense that they would be the guinea pigs.” There are plenty of people who do not know where or how the safety features came into their vehicles.

“I think it’s likely that this trend will continue,” Lyon says. The trend of new safety systems in race cars is on the rise, with introductions like more supportive roll bars, traction control, and more. 

Guyton agrees with Lyon as well, saying “I think we could see testing from both race cars as well as everyday cars.” With recent innovations in race cars emerging every day, it seems as though we could see even the most advanced safety systems being implemented into road cars very soon.

New safety systems are being developed every minute of every day. With brands like McLaren, Mercedes, Ford, and Volvo exceeding others in the invention and innovation of safety systems, it is only a matter of time before the Toyota Camrys on the road have the same safety capabilities as a Mercedes Formula One car.