Title:
Road Course and Methods of Use
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A system and corresponding method is provided for conveying driving-related information to vehicle drivers on a track or road course. The system includes evaluating a track or road course and determining recommended driving actions for various segments of the track or road course which may be suitable for drivers of different skill levels, including a relatively inexperienced driver. The recommendations can include speed-related information such a target speed, maximum speed, or a speed range. Optionally, the recommendations relate to other specific driving tasks such as starting or stopping a braking procedure, the appropriate line or path to follow around a curve at a given indicated speed, or starting or stopping an acceleration procedure. The recommendations are conveyed to the driver by way of indicia that is preferably provided on a portion of the driving surface of the track or road course. The indicia can be one or multiple colors, one or multiple shapes or symbols, or other suitable visually conspicuous elements or matter.



Inventors:
Bucalo, Louis R. (Miami Beach, FL, US)
Application Number:
12/192565
Publication Date:
02/19/2009
Filing Date:
08/15/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
404/75
International Classes:
E01F9/04
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HARTMANN, GARY S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BOYLE FREDRICKSON S.C. (MILWAUKEE, WI, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A system for conveying information to a vehicle driver on a track or road course, comprising: one or more pieces of indicia provided a surface that is on a portion of the driving surface of the track or road course, wherein the indicia conveys information relating to a recommended driving action to a driver upon the track or road course.

2. The system of claim 1 wherein the information relates to a recommended vehicular speed.

3. The system of claim 2 wherein the recommended vehicular speed information relates to at least one of a maximum vehicular speed or a recommended vehicular speed range.

4. The system of claim 3 wherein the recommended maximum vehicular speed or recommended vehicular speed range is pre-established and conveyed to a track or road course driver by way of the indicia.

5. The system of claim 1 wherein the indicia is visually conspicuous.

6. The system of claim 5 wherein the indicia is visually conspicuous due to a color contrast between the indicia and the driving surface of the track or road course.

7. The system of claim 5 wherein the indicia is visually conspicuous due to a color contrast between multiple colors provided in the indicia.

8. The system of claim 5 wherein the indicia is visually conspicuous due to shapes that are readily distinguishable from the driving surface of the track or road course.

9. The system of claim 8 wherein the indicia is visually conspicuous due to multiple non-analogous shapes provided in the indicia.

10. The system of claim 1 wherein the information relates to beginning a driving task.

11. The system of claim 10 wherein beginning a driving task is a recommendation to start braking.

12. The system of claim 10 wherein beginning a driving task is a recommendation to start accelerating.

13. The system of claim 1 wherein the information relates to ending a driving task.

14. The system of claim 13 wherein ending a driving task is a recommendation to stop braking.

15. The system of claim 13 wherein ending a driving task is a recommendation to stop accelerating.

16. A method of conveying guidance to a vehicle driver using a track or road course, the method comprising: (a) evaluating a track or road course by a relatively more experienced track or road course driver; (b) determining recommended driving actions suitable for a relatively less experienced track or road course driver based on the evaluation, for at least one segment of the track or road course; (c) providing indicia indicative of the recommended driving actions upon a surface that is on or adjacent a driving surface of the track or road course.

17. The method of claim 16 wherein the indicia provides at least one of a recommended maximum vehicular speed and a recommended vehicular speed range.

18. The method of claim 17 wherein the indicia includes a color indicative of the recommended maximum vehicular speed or speed range.

19. The method of claim 18 wherein the indicia includes multiple shapes that change as a function of a changing recommended maximum vehicular speed or speed range.

20. A road course, comprising: a) an elongate driving surface defining a width thereof between first and second outer edges; b) one or more pieces of indicia providing driving related information to a driver on the road course, the one or more pieces of indicia defined on a surface that is positioned laterally beyond the driving surface of the road course and is on a plane that is generally parallel to or coplanar with a plane defined by the driving surface.

21. The road course of claim 20 wherein a first and a second piece of indicia extend along a portion of the length of the driver surface and laterally out of each of the first and second outer edges of the driving surface.

21. The road course of claim 21 wherein the indicia conveys speed related information to a driver.



22. The road course of claim 20 further comprising a piece of indicia defined upon the driving surface indicating a recommended driving path.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This utility patent application claims the benefit of and priority to U.S. provisional application 60/965199, filed Aug. 16, 2007 and entitled ROAD COURSE AND METHODS OF USE, which is herein expressly incorporated by reference in its entirety, for all purposes.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to facilities for recreational driving and, more particularly, to systems for conveying information regarding recommended driving procedure(s), and/or various road course or track characteristics, to drivers.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

There are many facilities in the U.S. and internationally for recreational driving. These are often in the form of tracks or road courses which can be used for professional and amateur racing or for recreational driving in high performance vehicles, such as high performance cars and motorcycles, by non-professional drivers. Usage of tracks and road courses by non-professional drivers, e.g., amateur, novice, or other drivers having relatively little experience driving such high performance cars, is increasing dramatically. Such uses include “track days,” race schools, and/or other uses.

Non-professional drivers may be able to adequately control a high performance vehicle at relatively high speeds while driving along a generally straight line path, for example, along a long stretch of a straightaway. However, such non-professional drivers may not have the ability to adequately maintain vehicular control at relatively high speeds while driving through corners and turns. Accordingly, non-professional drivers using race tracks and road courses for recreational driving, often need guidance on the proper speeds to be used at the various segments of the road course in order to use the course safely and still get the maximum enjoyment and learning from their driving experience. Without such guidance, non-professional drivers are more likely to make mistakes and be involved in accidents.

Some tracks and road courses include no way for a non-professional driver to know an appropriate speed, besides his or her own instincts. For example, some tracks and road courses include painted and textured “rumble strips” at the lateral edges of the driving-surface, for indicating when a vehicle is nearly off the driving surface. However, such rumble strips do not convey, e.g., recommended speed or braking information to drivers, whereby at times when non-professional drivers hit rumble strips, their vehicles are already, at least to some extent, out of control and they drive completely off the driving surface.

Previous attempts have been made to convey recommended speed or other driving information to non-professional drivers that are using tracks or road courses. For example, track or road course officials or representatives may offer preliminary instructions to non-professional drivers, including information regarding recommended speeds for inexperienced drivers at various segments of the track or road course. Such information can be and sometimes is forgotten by the non-professional drivers while they are actually using the track or road course.

Other attempts have been made to convey recommended speed or other driving information to non-professional drivers using tracks or road courses, such as employing roadside signs. However, in some instances, roadside signs are less than desirable for conveying speed and other driving information to non-professional drivers. For example, if drivers go off track or otherwise stray from a roadway surface of the track or road course, such signs may become physical obstacles that could be struck by, and thus potential hazards for, the drivers.

In addition, in order to read roadside signs, drivers must momentarily take their eyes off the road to look at them. However, encouraging non-professional drivers to remove their attention from the roadway surface, especially while driving at relatively high speeds, can lead to hazardous situations. Furthermore, roadside signs offer only occasional, discrete, reminders, even though non-professional drivers tend to require continual feedback regarding appropriate or recommended speeds and/or other driving information or parameters.

Accordingly, it might prove desirable to provide a system that conveys recommended speeds and/or other driving information or parameters that does not require a driver focus on discrete messages that are spaced at relatively large distances from each other.

It might also prove desirable to provide a system that conveys recommended speeds and/or other driving information or parameters that allow drivers to focus their sight or attention as they normally would for properly driving on a driving surface before them, while at the same time being able to ascertain the recommended speeds and/or other driving information or parameters.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a system for frequently or continuously conveying information regarding recommended driving procedure(s) and/or various track or road course characteristics to drivers. In some implementations, the system provides visually conspicuous indicia on a road surface, e.g., a driving surface that conveys recommended driving speed or other recommended driving parameter(s) information to drivers.

In yet other implementations, a road course is provided that includes color-coded markings on the surface of the road or driving surface. Such colors may indicate to drivers the recommended speed ranges, maximum vehicular speeds, target speed(s) and/or other parameters for different sections of the road course. The recommended speed information, e.g., ranges, maximum speed(s), or target speed(s) may be signified by color(s), and uses are established and communicated to drivers prior to their use of the course. Since the color itself helps to indicate the recommended speed range or other information, drivers do not need to read any letters, words or numbers, but simply see a given color on the road, which is visually conspicuous and thus easily perceived without the driver taking his or her eyes off the road or changing focus used for optimal driving.

In some embodiments, the markings can be lines which are continually placed along one or both lateral edge(s) of the road or track, so the lines are clearly in sight at all sections of the course as drivers use the course, and are looking as they normally would to keep their eyes on the road for safe driving on the course. As the recommended speed changes from one section of the course to another, the color of the lines can change to indicate the new recommended speed range in each section of the course.

In other embodiments, the color of the lines will alternate between multiple colors between sections of the track with different recommended speeds, signifying the recommended speed of the current section and the color signifying the recommended speed of the upcoming section. This alerts drivers of the upcoming suggested or recommended speed change so that they can be prepared to adjust speed in the upcoming section, accordingly. For example, when transitioning between one section of the road course in which the recommended or target speed is 80-90 MPH and signified by a green-colored line along both sides of the road to another section of the road course where the recommended speed range is 60-70 MPH and signified by a purple-colored line on both sides of the road, an area of the road course before the 60-70 MPH section would have lines on both sides of the road that are alternating green and purple to indicate that a 60-70 MPH, purple line section is coming up. Characteristics of the alternating segments, such as changes in color vividness, changes in relative widths of alternating segments, or others, can correspond to how quickly or near the upcoming change is approaching.

In yet other embodiments, the markings may include symbols, shapes, or patterns, such as squares, circles, stars, and other easily perceived and distinct symbols, shapes, or patterns. Any type of marking that is easily discernable, visually conspicuous, and distinct with respect to others may be implemented in the current invention. For example, in such case(s), the markings need not be comprised of different colors if the symbols themselves are easily recognized as distinct based on the shape alone.

Preferably, the markings are selected from a limited number of symbols and/or colors, and/or other clearly discernable and distinct patterns and be placed on the road or driving surface itself, the rumble strip of the driving surface, or surfaces that are otherwise laterally adjacent the driving surface. The markings do not rely upon words or numbers that must be read to be identified, but rather on the shape and/or color and/or pattern of the marking which is easily perceived and recognized when driving at higher speeds. The markings may be made with paint, ink, and/or any other suitable means of creating the markings which does not introduce bumps, or other significant adverse road surface changes, or otherwise adversely change the driving surface or height of the road in areas where the markings are placed.

Furthermore, in some implementations, in addition to or instead of recommended and speed information for different sections of the road course, the markings can also be used to convey other important and useful information, such as recommended braking points and amount of braking, routes to follow around curves and turns for optimally negotiating such turns and curves, and other parameters.

As used herein, the terms “race track”, “track”, “road course”, “course”, and “road” are interchangeable with each other.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The drawings illustrate the best mode currently contemplated of practicing the present invention.

In the drawings:

FIG. 1 is a schematic, top plan view of a track or road course implementing a system, for conveying information to a driver, of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a schematic view representing various information that can be conveyed to a track or road course driver by way of the system of FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

With reference now to the drawing figures in which like reference numerals designate like parts throughout the disclosure, FIG. 1 is a largely schematic representation of a top plan view of a track or road course implementing the present invention. Track 10 includes driving surface 15 that is defined by the uppermost surface of the concrete, asphalt, or other material from which track 10 is made. Driving surface 15 has a main portion 17 which is laterally flanked by rumble strips 18.

System 50 is provided upon or near, for example, preferably adjacent, driving surface 15. Preferably system 50 is part of, coated, or otherwise applied to the driving surface 15 itself. For example, system 50 can be embedded into or rest upon (i) main portion 17, (ii) one or both of the rumble strips 18, (iii) one or both of rumble strips 18 and at least part of or all of main portion 17, or (iv) adjacent or otherwise near the driving surface 15.

Regardless of the particular location of system 50, or the substrate to which it is applied, it is preferably provided upon a surface or structure that presents no physical obstacle or barrier for vehicles that leave the driving surface 15 for any reason. Accordingly, preferred substrates for system 50 include track 10 and/or generally horizontal surfaces that are near enough to track 10 to allow drivers to receive, ascertain, and comprehend the recommendation being conveyed by system 10 without having to redirect their attention far from the driving surface 15 to an extent that might cause difficulty when refocusing upon the driving surface 15.

Referring now to FIGS. 1 and 2, system 50 includes indicia 100 and an underlying message or information 200 being conveyed thereby. Indicia 100 can be any of a variety of suitable visually conspicuous elements, for example, colors 110 and/or shapes 150, and each particular form of indicia 100 corresponds generally to a particular form of driving information 200. Driving information 200 can include speed information 210, beginning a driving task 220, ending a driving task 230, recommended driving paths 240, and/or others, as desired.

Speed-related information 210 can relate to (i) a recommended maximum vehicular speed, (ii) a recommended target speed, (iii) a recommended speed range, and/or others. Beginning a driving task 220 can relate to a recommendation to start braking or start accelerating. Correspondingly, ending a driving task 230 can relate to a recommendation to stop braking or stop accelerating.

Furthermore, the particular location of indicia 100 up track 10 can itself convey driving-related information to a driver. For example, providing indicia 100 on a left side rumble strip can indicate that a left-hand corner is approaching. Providing indicia 100 on a right side rumble strip can indicate that a right-hand corner is approaching. Indicia 100 provided on both left and right side rumble strips can indicate that a straightaway will be maintained for at least some distance.

The indicia location can also conveying driving related information 200 to a driver by guiding the driver along a recommended path or “line” upon the driving surface 15 at different portions of track 10. This is generally designated as driving path 240 information 200 (represented schematically in FIG. 2). It is noted that when indicia 100 is provided directly upon the driving surface 15, which might be appropriate for driving path 240 recommendations, it is applied in a manner that occupies a relatively small surface area of the driving surface 15 while still conveying the information, e.g. an elongate thin line or symbols or others. This ensures that gripping and traction characteristics of the driving surface 15 are not compromised.

Accordingly, in some implementations, the recommended driving path 240 is indicated by a thin elongate line is provided as indicia 100 and designates a desirable vehicle straddle indicator. In other words, the line showing the recommended driving path 240 could represent an area or target path that should pass under approximately in the center of the vehicle as it approaches a set of turns, remaining under the vehicle and between the vehicle's wheel boundaries throughout a series of turns.

In such configuration, the driver steers the vehicle so that it straddles the indicia 100 showing the recommended driving path 240, ensuring that the contact patch interface between the tire and the driving surface 15 remains as an e.g., (i) tire to concrete, (ii) tire to asphalt, (iii) tire to composite, or (iv) tire to other driving surface 15 constituent, preferably without being fettered or otherwise unduly compromised by the composition of the indicia 100. Correspondingly, in such preferred implementation, indicia 100 related to speed ranges, 210, initiation of braking, acceleration, etc. 220, and any other non-directional information are located continually on or beyond the outer edges of the road surface and only directional or driving path indicia 240, such as but not limited to proper turn entry and exit points and proper lines to follow through turns, are located on the more interior parts or portions of the road surface 15 over which the vehicle actually travels while properly driving the road course.

In light of the above, to use system 50, it is first implemented into a track 10. For example, a relatively experienced track or road course driver(s), preferably a professional driver or drivers, drive and evaluate the track 10. After this preliminary evaluation is completed, recommendations are made that correspond to preferred driving techniques, speeds, or other driving tasks for different segments of track 10 for drivers of various skill levels. The recommendations and corresponding indicia 100 are made and applied in view of typical driving abilities of non-professional, relatively less experienced, or novice drivers of high performance vehicles. This allows drivers of various skill levels, including the less experienced driver, to safely enjoy the road course and such high performance characteristics of the vehicle, while being duly informed throughout portions of the track 10 regarding recommended speeds, braking, turn entry and exit points, or other driving tasks. This can all be done while keeping his vision and focus continually on the road in a normal and appropriate manner for safe driving.

Accordingly, after drivers are instructed on the meaning of the indicia 100, they may use track 10 while being able to concentrate on the driving surface 15 without having to search for or try to read discrete signage. In this regard, such drivers only have to recall relatively few recommendations, e.g., green indicating speed ranges of 75-90 mph, purple indicating speed ranges of 50-75 mph, and orange indicating speed ranges of 40-50 mph.

Then, while focusing on driving surface 15, the drivers can peripherally see, for example, that what was a purple line now is alternating between purple and green, indicating that a speed increase may be safely performed so that they are traveling within the new speed range of 75-90 mph when the indicia turns to green alone. The same procedure applies in the alternative, speed decreasing direction as well. Furthermore, by analogy, the same procedure holds true for the various other driving tasks that indicia 100 can indicate, e.g., recommended braking, recommended accelerations, and/or others. As for following a recommended driving path 240, preferably the driver steers the vehicle so that the left and right pairs of wheels/tires straddle the driving path 240 indicia 100. In so doing, drivers maintain an aligned or registered relationship between such indicia 100 and a longitudinal axis extending through the high performance vehicles.

It is clear that the indicia 100 may in some embodiments signify different parameters or parameter ranges for drivers of different skill levels, such as, for example, those that have passed an accredited driving course and have, e.g., a Sports Car Club of America Racing License or other racing license versus those that have not obtained such a license. Drivers are again pre-instructed on the specific meaning of the various colors for them, given their current skill level.

In yet another embodiment of the current invention, a single color is used throughout the road course for the indicia 100, and the indicia consists of symbols that are pre-designated to indicate the specific information to be conveyed. This allows drivers of very high skill, including professional drivers, who no longer need this information and would like to use the road course without seeing these elements, to simply be given a set of eyeglasses or goggles that filter out the indicated color, rendering the indicia invisible to them.

It is specifically intended that the present invention not be limited to the embodiments and illustrations contained herein and the claims should be understood to include modified forms of those embodiments including portions of the embodiments and combinations of elements of different embodiments as come within the scope of the following claims.