The challenge is to protect drivers without obstructing their vision.

IndyCar driver Scott Dixon testing the Aeroscreen. (Image source: IndyCar)

Open-cockpit racing preserves the gladiatorial feel of car racing in a way that closed-roof racing can’t capture. Even behind full-face helmets with reflective visors closed, fans can see the drivers at work behind the wheel, which helps draw a connection between the spectators and the athletes.

But open cockpits present risks to drivers, who can be struck in the head by debris when other drivers ahead have problems. Even worse, drivers can strike their heads on solid objects when they crash.

Some crashes will probably always be unsurvivable when the cars are going 220 mph or faster. But too many lesser incidents have seen drivers injured or killed. So racing engineers have pursued a solution to protect drivers.