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Magneti Marelli to provide FIA new safety camera for cars in 2016

Italian Grand Prix – Magneti Marelli have developed a high speed 400 frames per second camera, for the purpose of safety and is set to be introduced in Formula One in 2016. The small almost USB stick sized camera and has taken the Itallian firm a year to develop. One of the reasons for the year long development period has been to create a robust, lightweight and incredibly compact high speed camera, whilst still being able to deliver industry standard 400fps video.

To directly compare, current cameras used only record at 25fps which restricts all parties from establishing causes of high speed accidents such as those of Felipe Massa’s in Hungary 2009 and the tragic accident of Henry Surtees during a Formula Two race at Brands Hatch in 2009. To give light on how much this could help understand and develop safety in Motorsport, those having to view the video will be able to view 16 times the amount of frames compared to the current 25 fps camera.

The purpose of the camera that is to understand the mechanism of driver injuries, to accurately ‘determine the first point of contact to help develop cockpit safety’ which is a sensitive subject currently, however is of paramount importance to Motorsport on a global scale.

The camera is so compact, that when compared to an ‘off the shelf’ set up with parts available in the public domain, it is one third of the weight and takes up just one eighth of the space in comparison to a bulkier standard set up.

Magneti Marelli have ‘piggy backed’ the camera on a front roll structure in recent crash test to test out the camera, and have also used the camera in a McLaren simulation earlier this season. Tom Hyder, Magneti Marelli’s Technical Centre Manager, told FormulaSpy that the camera will be run later in the season in free practice so teams can understand how the camera will fit and the minimal impact the device may have on airflow. When asked would the camera be available for teams to use elsewhere on the car, he said the camera was primarily for safety recordings, however he did not rule out future uses of the device should teams wish to.

Video footage from the camera is compressed, in real time, to a H.264 codec for the ease of storage and then sent straight to the accident data recorder. The recorded video is recorded directly inline with the various other parts of data recorded, such as speed, acceleration/deceleration and other forms of loading. This is to aid and improve understanding the behaviour of high speed accidents, allowing engineers and investigators especially a lot more visual detail when trying to produce a report and recommendations from accidents.

FormulaSpy has learned that the camera will be sat on the front roll structure of the car, just in front of the steering wheel, facing the driver. A height position is yet to be determined as Magneti Marelli are currently working with teams to find an optimum height position with a range being looked at is between 10 – 20mm.

Once the camera has been established and successfully used in Formula One from 2016, the Italian firm plan to roll out a budget version to lower formula race series, however the frame rate of 400 fps is to be maintained. Eventually this new technology is to be introduced to the automotive industry whereby it should be instrumental in accident investigations.

About Seb Scott

Sebastian is an FIA accredited Formula One journalist and Motorsport engineer. He lives and breathes Formula One, especially the technical aspect of the sport. For a unique insight behind the scenes at a Grand Prix, especially tech related pictures, check out his twitter @sebscottf1

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