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Navigating for Rally Australia

J.A. Maynard
Student, Wesley College

C.A. Maynard
Senior Lecturer, Curtin University


Car rally teams need complex navigational data and the collation and presentation of this information is a major part of the rally planning and implementation process. This paper will discuss the creation of a software package written in HyperCard that has been used to computerise this process for Rally Australia. A major problem for rally organisers is the leadtime to publication for the standardised navigation manuals. Computerisation has meant flexibility, with simple insertion and deletion of course sections and the capability of republishing at very short notice.

Some ideas for the further development of the system including interactive onboard information presentation are also discussed. In particular the provision of facilities to view the relationships between the standardised information and associated recent video of the course interactively will significantly enhance the navigators planning and performance.

The problem

Unlike general car racing, such as Formula 1 or Touring cars, that have only a driver rallying involves a crew of two, a driver and a navigator. It is the navigator's responsibility to tell the driver where to go and the navigator gets this information from a Road Book in front of him. Rallying involves two types of driving. The first corresponds to the public image of flat out racing and the part of the course in which this takes place is called a Special Stage. Secondly there is the driving between the Special Stages at normal road speeds and these are called the Liaison Stages. In the Road Book these are represented by yellow and white coloureds pages respectively. Each Stage is divided into instructions and each instruction contains the current Total, Part and Decremental distances for the stage as well as a Tulip (Graphic representation of vital landmarks) and signpost information.

Road Book

The road books for all events in the World Rally have been produced by hand with the use of technical draftspersons and graphic artists completing the task of putting together the pages meeting the FIA standards. The problem inherent in such a system is that it cannot respond to late changes to the course. Drivers and navigators often spend the week before a rally checking out the course and obviously need the appropriate road books, but it is possible for the organisers to need to make some late changes just before the actual rally to accommodate the effects of flooding etc. Correctly updating the information and formatting the results to meet the required standards has been a major problem for the organising bodies.

These requirements may best be summarised as comprising a desktop publishing package with facilities for high quality graphics and specific computational capabilities. The package needed to provide all the standard presentation requirements of the FIA standards with simple entry and updating capabilities so that the demand for late publishing schedules could be met.

The initial solution

The initial requirement was to develop a prototype interface for rally officials to evaluate and this was required within a fortnight of the original request. With such a tight time constraint it was decided to use HyperCard as the prototyping tool. The information provided by the rally organisers was limited and several assumptions had to be made on the methodology of information gathering used by the rally officials when compiling the book database. After two weeks work a demonstration of the system showed that it had great potential provided the developers were informed of the correct methodology. It was surprising to learn that the simple assumptions used based on the available information were almost diametrically opposite to the actual situation but it only took a short time to reorganise the data input functions to match the real requirements. The rally organisers requested a working system to be available as soon as possible. The time limit meant that it was decided to continue the development in HyperCard rather than convert to any alternative approach. While the general concepts had proved to be relatively easy and met the major requirements the significant limitation faced was the quality of graphic output available from HyperCard.

The output was limited to screen graphic quality whereas the rest of the document can print at the full 300dpi of the laser printer. Given the advantages that the organisers recognised as having already accrued from the development and the resultant reduction in cost of rally book production it was decided to proceed. It was decided that for the 1991 operation the pages would be printed straight from HyperCard and then easily finished by a graphic artist. It is worth noting that only the "tulips" need to be improved as the signage graphics has straight lines (horizontal, vertical and 45 degrees) and text.

There has been some investigation of a variety of solutions to the graphics' problems of HyperCard during the year and at this stage exporting the cards to a graphics package that can perform smoothing has been successful in generating the necessary graphic quality.

Onboard navigation for rallying

At this time rally navigators already use highly accurate odometers, timers and other equipment in their cars so a navigational computer is the next logical step. A LCD display computer linked to the car to monitor distance and direction sensing equipment has many possibilities. There are several differences between the navigational computer needs of rally drivers and city commuters but the current research into onboard systems concentrates for obvious reasons on the latter. Probably the most significant difference is the need for physical robustness. The probability that disk drives will perform adequately within a rally car for a significant period is minimaL It is proposed that RAM disk systems be used to hold the necessary data but this precludes the inclusion of significant quantities of stored video information.

Once a computer is in a car the choice of what information you show and how you show it is almost limitless. One suggestion is simply a real time version of the current road book concept with position information automatically changing and updating the tulips accordingly. Other suggestions are a digitised headup picture display that scrolls as the car moves and arrows on the picture that tell you where to go or a combination of both is yet another alternative.

Interactive course assessment

At this time it is envisaged that an interactive video display associated with the computerised mapbook will be used by navigators in planning operations but not during the actual rally itself. Facilities to allow navigators to study the route maps and visually to observe the course conditions interactively will greatly reduce the need for early forays throughout the course. It has been commented by rally organisers that minimising the prerally course coverage by competitors would be useful simply by reducing inconvenience for landowners. Landowners rarely object to the passage of the rally course and the presence of the officials and public on their land provided the time is limited. Repetitive visits over a fortnight ahead of the rally proper can lead to problems in obtaining permissions for future events. The creation of interactive video in support of the course mapping can also have considerable publicity and educational value.

As the course is prepared well in advance all the video could be shot and compiled onto a video disk and linked directly to the HyperCard course database to allow navigators the option of investigating aspects of the course using an interactive multimedia presentation. The same video and navigation database can be used as an educational tool to improve the public's awareness of the rallying sport.


The introduction of a computerised navigational database for rally road book generation has opened up additional opportunities to improve the information presentation through interactive multimedia techniques. These developments will provide the navigators, the organisers and the interested general public new insights into rally navigation techniques.

Please cite as: Maynard, J. A. and Maynard, C. A. (1992). Navigating for Rally Australia. In Promaco Conventions (Ed.), Proceedings of the International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 479-481. Perth, Western Australia, 27-31 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1992/maynard.html

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