It’s certainly no secret that gaming is having a profound impact on motorsports, especially with new driver development. But Nissan has really taken the concept to a whole new level with its Nissan GT-R /C. In what is the ultimate race car for gamers, Nissan’s GT-R /C is a one-off project, full-sized race car that has been extensively modified to be driven entirely by the DualShock 4 controller for the Garn Turismo Sport gaming series.
If the results on the track are any indication, the Nissan GT-R /C could make robotic race cars a reality in the very near future.
Controlling the full-sized GT-R /C from the cockpit of a helicopter, Jann Mardenborough, NISMO Athlete and GT Academy Award winner, averaged more than 76 miles per hour around the Silverstone National Circuit in England, hitting a top speed of more than 130 miles per hour.
A driver who made the jump from gaming to actual racing, Mardenborough was the perfect choice to drive the robotic GT-R /C around the Silverstone circuit.
“This was once-in-a-lifetime, truly epic stuff,” said Mardenborough after his historic run at Silverstone. “The GT-R /C has brought my two worlds together – the virtual of gaming and the reality of motorsport – in a way I never thought possible. The response from the car when using the controller was far more engaging than I thought it would be. JLB Design has done an incredible job at making everything respond really well. Steering, acceleration and braking were all intelligently configured, allowing for controlled application so I could really get a feel through the corners and hold it steady down the fast straights. Driving a full-size, remote-control GT-R to 131 mph at Silverstone whilst chasing it down in a helicopter was an unforgettable experience. Now that’s innovation that excites!”
Mardenborough first became interested in motorsports through virtual racing on the Grand Turismo video game, in which Nissan has been involved for more than 20 years. In 2011, he entered an online competition on Gran Turismo 5 that propelled him from virtual racing into the world of real motorsports.
Sony’s Gran Turismo was originally designed by Kazunori Yamaguchi in 1997. As with other motorsports gaming platforms, the sophistication of the Gran Turismo platform increased steadily until Sony and Nissan decided to form the GT Academy in 2008, to see if a gamer could actually control a real race car from behind the wheel.
Now, with the new GT-R /C, gamers can control a real race car from a gaming platform. But it takes a lot of additional technology to accomplish the task.
Fitted with four robots that operate the steering, transmission, brakes and throttle, there are also six computers mounted in the rear of the GT-R /C that update controls at up to 100 times a second. As for the gaming controls, they are essentially unmodified from the DualShock 4 console, connecting to a micro-computer that interprets the joystick and button signals, transmitting them to the vehicle’s onboard system at a range of up to one kilometer.
To help Mardenborough judge the vehicle’s speed through the corners, a Racelogic VBOX Motorsport sensor was installed to relay speed data to a LCD display in the helicopter cockpit.
The GT-R /C is also fitted with two independent safety systems, operating on different radio frequencies, which allow two additional operators to apply full ABS braking and cut the engine in the event of the main operator losing control of the vehicle.
Will robotic racing, like the coming of autonomous vehicles, be the future? I certainly hope not. But robotic racing and remote controls could make racing a lot more safe for those entering the sport, and for companies who wish to test new high performance components on the track.
As for Mardenborough, he’s back on the track, racing in GT500 and Super Formula in Japan, where he now lives. As for the GT-R /C, it’s on a tour of primary and secondary schools in Mardenborough’s native United Kingdom, where hopefully it will inspire students on to future careers. It may also inspire a new generation of race car drivers, who control full-sized vehicles from a gaming platform.
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