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Toyota’s TRD racing team speeds to winner’s circle with Windows 8 Surface tablets

by Michael Singer

May 20 2013

TRD worked with Microsoft on a touch-enabled app as the centerpiece of a new strategy to improve the performance of the Toyota teams competing in NASCAR.
TRD worked with Microsoft on a touch-enabled app as the centerpiece of a new strategy to improve the performance of the Toyota teams competing in NASCAR.

When the pro-racing division of Toyota Motors said it needed a mobile computing platform to monitor real-time performance data, it turned to Microsoft Surface Pro tablets running Windows 8.

Toyota Racing Development - or TRD as it is known in racing circles - is always on the lookout for new ways to increase the performance of its engines competing in NASCAR races.

Since 2007, the racing group has been developing software for teams to better analyze this information and help it win races.

So when drivers, crew chiefs and team engineers expressed the need to spend more time on the track and less time with the analysis, TRD executives began looking for a mobile device to monitor real-time performance data.

“We chose Windows 8 instead of Apple’s iOS because we get enterprise-ready security, the familiarity of the Windows development environment, and a touch-enabled interface,” said Darren Jones, group lead for software development at TRD.

Historically, drivers and crew chiefs recorded racing performance data during practices with software on a laptop, or even with pencil and paper. This required drivers to get out of their race cars to view information about the car's performance, as well as to explain what was happening on the track.

In March of 2012, TRD developers began working with Microsoft Services to architect and design, "TRD Trackside," an application to run as a touch-enabled application on Windows 8 tablets.

“The Microsoft Services team immersed themselves in our world to help design a great application, with wireframes, that our race teams love,”Jones said. “We had the team at a racetrack one day for 15 hours straight.”

The software lets engineers rank drivers’ performance statistics; compare competitors’ lap times; and use Bing maps to depict the track so drivers can tap the point where their cars’ handling needs to be improved.

TRD engineers evaluated several factors when choosing the right tablet including outdoor visibility and battery life. With Surface Pro, drivers are able to use the tablet inside the car by tapping the screen to input data and then passing it to the crew chief, who can snap on the Type or Touch keyboard and use the tablet like a laptop.

“Other teams are writing notes on paper, and I’m thinking, ‘that’s old school,’” says Kenny Wallace, who drives the #99 Toyota Camry for RAB Racing. “I just tap on the Surface Pro to tell my crew chief what he needs to know - it only takes a second. And he uses the application to compare my time and performance against the track layout so I can see where I have to improve to beat the competition.”

TRD said it will make Surface Pro tables with the “Trackside” tablet app available to its nationwide series teams this year and increase its support capabilities to make it available to the rest of its racing teams in 2014.

Michael Singer is the Business Editor for TabTimes

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