By on March 2, 2014

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A flying car is one of the evergreen fantasies of car guys, and finally Chevrolet has fulfilled that fantasy, sort of. GM engineers have developed what they call “Flying Car Mode” for the Camaro Z/28, the most track-capable version of Chevy’s muscle car. While it doesn’t make the Camaro fly, it is a rather clever use of technology that’s already on board when the Z/28 does get off the ground that allows the car to do faster laps.

Though getting air is not typically an issue on the road, on a race track with elevation changes you can get all four wheels to leave terra firma at the same time. While developing the new Z/28, the car was taken to the Nurburgring and they discovered that because of the way the vehicle’s traction control system worked, whenever the car got air the system sensed wheel spin and cut power to the driving wheels, which meant that it slowed down when it hit the ground, producing slower lap times. Since bragging rights from the ‘Ring have become a part of performance car marketing and since you can get air several times a lap there, a solution had to be found. The proposed solution GM engineers came up with was to deactivate traction control when the car is in the air. That will keep the wheels spinning under power, allowing the car to accelerate as soon as the wheels are back on the pavement. The question then becomes, how do the computers running things know that the car is off of the ground?

While the Z/28's Flying Car Mode was developed to around the 'Ring faster, this looks more like Milford, Michigan than Nürburg, Rhineland-Palatinate.

While the Z/28’s Flying Car Mode was developed to go around the ‘Ring faster, this is the road course at the GM Proving Grounds near Milford, Michigan, not the Flugplatz near Nürburg, Rhineland-Palatinate.

GM’s highest performance cars like the ZR1 Corvette, and the ZL-1 and Z/28 versions of the Camaro feature what the automaker calls the Performance Traction Management system, or PTM, which integrates traction control, Active Handling, and chassis mode selection to work together. Cars with PTM are equipped with ride height sensors. On the Z/28, when the PTM system senses full chassis drop from the ride height sensors, it goes into Flying Car Mode, deactivating traction control. GM says that keeping the wheels spinning when getting air saved them 5 seconds a lap at the ‘Ring’s Nordschleife circuit.

Bill Wise, Camaro Z/28 vehicle performance engineer, explained the details. “PTM uses torque, lateral acceleration and rear-axle wheel slip to define the amount of traction control required, but when the car clears a rise on the track, it normally wants to decrease torque to increase traction. The unique logic in the system uses the ride-height sensors to determine the reduction in force on the tires that’s unique to track driving and allows the car to continue with uninterrupted momentum and, ultimately, a better lap time.”

Once the ride height sensors detect that the wheels have touched down, the PTM system reactivates traction control.

PTM has five performance levels and the flying car logic is active, to varying degrees, in all five modes, so if you manage to catch some air while tooling around on public roads, you’ll still hit the ground running, so to speak, but flying car mode is most effective in Mode 5, the setting Z/28 drivers would likely use on the track.

Source: General Motors.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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5 Comments on “Finally, Flying Car Mode...”


  • avatar
    claytori

    A long time ago I did a little bit of off road racing. The flying car bit requires a fair bit of skill. We didn’t have any of the ASC/TC, so you did it with your foot. Basically the car’s trajectory has to be determined in the approach to the take-off. You don’t have any way to change that trajectory after the wheels leave the ground.

    • 0 avatar
      rentonben

      In Kirkland WA, there’s a few hill streets that the cross streets that create a stair effect like the case scenes in those 1970’s San Francisco movies. When we’d do stupid-teenager tricks on them, I would be very sure to have my Oldmobile Achieva SCX lined up perfectly because once you left the ground, any spin in the car would keep going and you’d land cock-eyed. My friends Honda Accord suffered that fate and had to spend time in the shop straightening it out.

      The jump had to be done at the right speed or the front would come down first and put way too much stress on the car and bend it like a banana, some idiot in a convertible did that to much amusement of all.

      If anybody does have an urge to get airborne – don’t do like we did. Of all the cars in our little group, I think mine was the only one that came out unscathed. Not by any particular skill but because I was poor and couldn’t afford to ruin my car – I watched everybody else make the mistakes first before venturing forth in idiot mode.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    Talk about hitting the ground running!

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    This is not the flying car we were promised. There WAS one, the Convair model 118, also known as the “ConvAirCar”. This won’t let us fly over traffic jams, the whole purpose of a flying car. Maybe they’ll work on altitude later?

  • avatar

    Flying cars are like dream to us. We were waiting for this invention since long time, but we did not get the exact flying car but we got a part of it. It will be very comfortable for us to take a drive on this technology and will be very free to drive this car. There are several sensors attached to the tires which make the car jump and then the speed slows down when the car touches the road. This technology will give us a exciting and happy journey.


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