Softpedia Interview: Toyota Racing Development on Windows 8 and Surface RT

We’ve talked to TRD about the new Trackside app and Microsoft’s new operating system

TRD officially released the so-called Trackside app a few days ago, proving everybody that Microsoft’s Surface RT, the company’s first tablet in history, could be used for quite a wide array of tasks.

The new application can greatly improve car performance because it allows drivers and engineers to analyze the collected data easier than ever before. The project is still in testing phase at this point, but the app will go live for the first time in February at Daytona.

To get a better view on Windows 8’s role in this new project, we’ve talked to Darren Jones, group lead of software development for Toyota Racing Development, and Steve Wickham, VP of chassis operations for Toyota Racing Development, as both of them have been involved in the creation of the Trackside app.

Softpedia: First of all, congratulations for the app! How long have you been working on it?

TRD: The original Windows 7 app on which Trackside is based was developed over the last two years. The Windows 8 Trackside app has been developed over the last six months.

Softpedia: While choosing the Surface RT to be installed in the cockpit of a race car pretty much makes sense, isn't the upcoming Surface with Windows 8 Pro a better choice?

TRD: To clarify, the device is handed to the driver during pitstops in practice so it is not present in the car when it is on the track. We used Surface Windows RT to test the Trackside app during our pilot phase; we are still evaluating devices based on best options for battery life, weight, screen resolution and what will work well across our teams in a hazardous environment.

We found the Surface Windows RT device to be a good fit for the relatively lightweight Trackside app as used for communications between the driver and his engineers. I am sure our teams would enjoy the power of the Surface Windows 8 Pro when it is available and as we expand the capabilities of Trackside outside of the driver/engineer use case.

Softpedia: Do you expect some other teams to develop and adopt similar technologies?

TRD: I would be disappointed if they did not see this and want to copy it!! Racing is always about being that bit better than your competitors in every area...

Softpedia: The system will go live at Daytona in February 2013, but you've said that the app is already being tested in practice runs across the country. What do test drivers think about it?

TRD: The feedback has been very positive from the drivers and engineers that have seen and used it. Those guys are very demanding and if they see something that could give them an advantage, especially using new technology, they jump on it.

Softpedia: And what about the Surface RT? Because Windows RT and Windows 8 have both been considered pretty confusing operating systems by analysts and users.

TRD: We have had very few adoption issues, just a quick few minutes and they are up and running.

Softpedia: We've heard that TRD will also help Toyota develop special-edition models with high-performance parts. Do you plan to rely on Windows 8 and use a similar technology to improve these cars' performance?

TRD: I am afraid I can't specifically comment on that as that is a separate area of TRD and Toyota's business. I would like to think any performance-related organization would want the latest technology.

Softpedia: Microsoft claims that Windows 8 is the kind of operating system that's addressed to all consumer categories, including businesses from a wide array of industry sectors. What do you think about this statement?

TRD: I would say so far so good with Windows 8 for us in our world. I am looking forward to the benefits it can bring across our business.

Softpedia: Are you working on some other Windows 8/Windows RT projects that could be released in the near future?

TRD: We are always working on our development tools; it is logical that these will eventually migrate to Windows 8. The touch environment is a natural fit for working at the race track. As for RT, we will evaluate, as will our teams, the best equipment for each area of our business. RT will be one of those considered in many of those areas.

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