Chevrolet has just announced one of those, "Why didn't we think of that?" ideas. But you'll still have to wait a few months before you can order this cool bit of technology, and it will only be available on the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and 2015 Corvette Z06.
Chevrolet calls it the Performance Data Recorder or PDR. In conjunction with Cosworth, the British motorsports company, Chevrolet has developed an all-new industry-first system that integrates in-car recorded video, audio and motorsport-inspired data for playback on either the car's own 8-inch touchscreen or on a computer where even more detailed analysis (and social networking) is available. Just like the in-car screens you see on the Web or on televised races, you can see gauges, graphs and audio superimposed in real-time over a video of what the Corvette's driver saw while driving and recording.
Racecar Technology for the Street
Until now, expensive and complex data-acquisition and playback systems like these were available only to vehicle manufacturers, racing teams or to the public through specialized retailers for at least $3,000 and up. And those so-called bolt-on systems require suction cups, cables, GPS antennas and a specialized computer program to tie it all together.
Starting in the third-quarter of 2014, however, Corvette buyers will have the option of getting similar capabilities simply by ticking the PDR option box (as well as the one for the navigation system) when ordering a 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray or Corvette Z06. And because the PDR system is completely integrated into the car, there's nothing to set up, work around or fuss with. The various systems include a video camera embedded in the windshield header, a hidden and more sophisticated GPS antenna than the one used for navigation, a hidden mic in the cabin, 30 channels of data streaming from the car's own Controller Area Network (CAN) and small SD-card slot in the glovebox.
Simply select the PDR icon from the touchscreen like you would, for instance, to bring up the navigation system, press record, press again to set your start/finish line. PDR does the rest. Only a black screen is displayed while PDR is recording. Once you finish recording (about 200 minutes on an 8GB card), you can watch your laps on the car's touchscreen with graphics of your choice overlayed on the 720p video.
What Kind of Information Do You Get?
The graphics will display the car's speed, engine rpm, gear, throttle and brake position, steering angle, stability-control system status, g-force, a location-based map and lap time. That sounds crowded, but the graphics are superbly rendered and are as good as those you see on television.
Two other, less detailed overlays are also available plus a mode that can record straight-line runs with 0-60-mph times, quarter-mile time/speed, and 0-100-0-mph runs (with far greater precision than similar systems available from other manufacturers). Or pop the SD card out and download everything to your computer. Once there, open the Cosworth Toolbox (included) and dive in for a more detailed analysis. On the computer, you can have a complete data dump with even more methods of playback and data breakdown.
You can compare your laps to a friend's (or in our case, a professional driver's) reference lap, running them simultaneously (split screen or overlayed) to see where time and position were gained or lost. What's more, because the data is precise enough, you can even watch your drive lines from space, courtesy of a Bing-enabled satellite map of the track. The number of combinations of chosen display mode and accompanying data-rich charts is impressive and will keep any driving enthusiast busy for hours.
What's It Like To Record Every Element of Your Driving?
We were given an opportunity to test-drive current Corvette Stingray retro-fitted with a prototype PDR system on Sebring International Speedway in Florida. Sebring is an easy track to learn and a good place to stretch the Corvette's legs with relative confidence.
Post-lapping analysis with a Cosworth representative was fascinating and insightful. One can readily navigate all of the playback screens and charts, interpret the data and use it to improve driving techniques for a follow-up session. Currently, the system is set up to work only on circuits with the same start/finish line, however, Cosworth says it's working on point-to-point capabilities for other real-world roads such as the infamous Tail of the Dragon or Silver State Classic Challenge.
Still months away from official release, Chevrolet has yet to reveal pricing on the 2015 Corvette Stingray, the highly anticipated all-new 2015 Corvette Z06, or the Performance Data Recorder option itself. And sorry, because PDR is literally hard-wired into the car, it will not be available as a retro-fit for past or current cars (like our long-term 2014 Corvette Stingray).
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.