08 Nov: MSA, tracking rally cars

Rallies Committee considers vehicle tracking …

The MSA Rallies Committee is researching live vehicle tracking systems and suppliers for potential introduction on UK stage rallies.

Live tracking systems enable the locations and movements of cars, as well as, critically, any incidents, to be alerted to the event HQ and the relevant emergency services in real time.

The systems used on stage rallies in other countries utilise the mobile phone networks that have been developed to cover the majority of the landmass. However it is more difficult in Britain, where mobile phone coverage is instead based on population centres; stage rallies are generally run in more remote rural areas where there can be little signal.

Rallies Committee has drawn up an initial schedule of minimum requirements, including – but not limited to – the need for real-time coverage of as many as 150 vehicles on up to four special stages at any one time. The Committee now wishes to discuss possible solutions with any potential suppliers.

Andrew Kellitt, MSA Rallies Committee chairman, said: “This is an important project as there isn’t currently a suitable automated tracking system for stage rallies available in the UK, so domestically we rely on a labour-intensive manual system of radio relays. The FIA World Rally Championship (and therefore Wales Rally GB) runs a very expensive bespoke system that relies on a plane circling overhead to relay the signals, and there’s a satellite-based system in Australia but we believe that’s very expensive too.

“The question we’re asking – not just of the motor sport community but also the communications industry – is, ‘How can we reliably transmit data from the cars to Rally HQ in real time at an affordable cost?’ It’s certainly our intention to find a suitable solution that can be implemented on stage rallies in Britain.”

Interested parties should contact Ian Davis, MSA Regional, Rallies & Cross Country Executive at:
by 20 December 2013.

Editor’s note: It was me who highlighted the phrase above “at an affordable cost” and therein lies the crux of the matter. I’m all for safety, but who’s going to pay for it – again?

If the MSA could exert some pressure on the Government to exert their own pressure on the mobile telecoms companies then just maybe they could extend their current network to cover the whole country – not just population centres!

This could be sold as a safety programme to help those engaged in urban activities, from farmers and foresters to postal delivery workers and midwives. At the present time if someone has an accident or sudden medical requirement in the countryside they have little chance of calling for help and even less chance of being found if off the road up a farm track or down a gully.

Surely this is something that the Government could insist on all those big telecoms companies implementing, who currently appear to be simply hellbent on enriching themselves and their shareholders at the expense of providing a proper all-inclusive public service. Such a system could save lives as well as time and money

For goodness sake it’s not as if the UK is a huge landmass. And a few more telephone masts would be a lot less unsightly than those windfarm monstrosities – and who knows, a few tall telephone masts on top of some of those wind generators might just do the trick – on-site power and extended reach.

Then once we get a better, more extensive telephone network, than the MSA can go to work on a rally tracking service. Or is that too simple?