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Autonomous Driving? We Take A Look Back at Race Tracks that Allowed Cars to ¨Drive Themselves¨

With attention focused on autonomous cars, or ¨self driving cars¨ we thought we would share a piece of racing history that involved race track design so different it almost allowed cars to drive themselves back in the 1920ś.

Board track racing was quite popular in the 1910ś, and 1920´s. The tracks were constructed using hardwood planks and were supported by giant girders, much like wooden roller coasters.The tracks drews huge crowds and the racing was spectacular.

It was also dangerous. Many drivers lost their lives on these tracks, as speeds increased.

To achieve higher speeds banking was employed in similar fashion to tracks made in europe for bicycle racing. The physics was obvious. The science allowed cars on banks to continue to travel at high speed through the turns. This design is still employed on many tracks today, especially oval speedways. Todayś race cars are set up to take advantage of those banks with vehicle alignments and suspension set ups that are different than that used for street cars.

Designer Art Pillsbury, who eventually worked on more than half of the championship-caliber board tracks nationwide in the United States, first employed the Searle Spiral Easement Curve, and the effect on car handling was dramatic.

Pillsbury said a correctly engineered track could be driven without any steering input from a driver. He said the cars could actually steer themselves around the track simply because of the trackś geometry.

The old wood tracks of the 1920ś are gone now. They were expensive to maintain because they were prone to rot, and the ravages of time have turned these once popular public attractions into dust.

Watch the attacked video - and you will see how exciting and dangerous these wooden speedways were. It would have taken nerves of steel to run a car or motorcycle around one of these tracks.

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