Foreword

I am delighted to introduce the RAC‘s 29th annual Report on Motoring. For decades, Formula 1 has led the way in developing and utilising technologies that have benefited motorists.

I have been fortunate to play a part in this technical journey while at Benetton, Ferrari, Honda and Brawn GP. In my new role as F1 Managing Director of Motorsports I have the opportunity to influence the future agenda to ensure that F1 technology continues to benefit the wider motoring community.

Today, the number of fatalities on Great Britain’s roads is half of what it was at the end of the last millennium and less than a quarter of that in 1966, when of course there were far fewer vehicles on our roads. While many factors have contributed to this success story, the ability to design cars in a way that reduces the risk of a driver losing control in difficult conditions has certainly lessened the likelihood of collisions. And today’s cars are designed to absorb the impact and protect occupants and pedestrians when collisions do occur to improve the chances of survival. Both of these developments owe much to motorsports and F1.

Similarly, telemetry has for many years been an essential part of F1 linking cars in real time to their support teams both at the track side and back in the team’s engineering headquarters. And it is similar telematics technology that is nowstarting to help motorists drive in a safer, more affordable way and alerting organisations like the RAC to vehicle faults before they cause a breakdown.

Last year’s Report highlighted the epidemic of drivers using handheld mobile phones while driving and the last government responded to this by increasing penalties and stepping up communications via the THINK! campaign. Driver distraction through the misuse of new technology is a constant risk.

F1 drivers cannot afford to lose concentration for a moment and therefore designers have had to think hard about how they can introduce ever more sophisticated systems into vehicles while ensuring that they can be used and optimised for the prevailing conditions by the driver without any loss of focus on the race. I am sure there are lessons for the designers of today’s passenger cars.

The 2017 motoring agenda is dominated by concerns about the harmful effects of vehicles’ exhaust emissions on air quality. Motor manufacturers have dramatically reduced emissions of both harmful pollutants and CO2 over the last 15 to 20 years but there is more to do. The current generation of Formula 1 petrol engines are recognised as the most efficient on the planet and there is more to come. I am very proud that F1 has set an example in the use of hybrid technology. The introduction of regenerative braking through Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) back in 2009 led the way in recovering energy while braking and then storing and releasing the energy to improve performance and efficiency, something that is increasingly common in today’s mass market vehicles.

Today’s plug-in hybrid production cars offer a genuine alternative to a pure diesel or petrol engine for the family motorist and like KERS can contribute to the vehicle’s performance as well as its environmental footprint. Driving can still be fun as well as environmentally responsible. The launch of FIA Formula E suggests that motorsport is still evolving in a manner relevant to society and I am confident that the technology behind this will help to make pure electric vehicles a practical and affordable proposition for everyday motoring.