If you are a motorsport fan, you will be acutely aware of your senses. Not just what you see, but the smell and the sound; add to these the addictive senses of danger, trepidation, excitement, adrenaline and pride. Combining these senses makes the motor car one of our modern life’s most important sensory experiences.
In particular, as Aldous Huxley once remarked, ‘Speed is the only entirely novel sensation of the twentieth century.’ The train made Speed a democratic experience, the jet refined travel and took away the sensation, but the motor car made this amalgam of the senses personal.
The racing driver’s senses are enhanced even more; severe acceleration can lead to restricted vision, and the heart rate and pulses increase, producing an addictive ‘high’.
In the early days of racing, the drivers lived in a troubled world, relieved only by the possibility of glory and kept sharp by the prospect of violent death.
Almost anyone with a driver’s license knows that driving can be very tiring. Not only does it tire us out physically, but it can also be tiring emotionally. One reason is that driving requires us to activate all our senses simultaneously, putting ourselves in a heightened state of alertness.
However, the role of the human driver in controlling the vehicle is still poorly understood. One feature of driver–vehicle control neglected to date is the sensory perception of the driver.
An intriguing challenge for those working on developing a new generation of EVs is how to tantalize the senses similarly – building those emotional connections that keep people buying cars even when the technology is noticeably more muted.
Compared with today’s driving experience, the most apparent missing ingredient is the lack of noise inside and outside the car, particularly given EVs’ brutal acceleration.
That said, the reduction in mechanical is subjectively more pleasant around town. Wow.