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The Microcosm of IoT and connected cars in Formula 1 (Part 1)

Aerodynamics has always been a primary factor in decision-making and competitiveness in motor sports. For a racer, understanding the car platforms racing characteristics helps tune a competitive racing plan, yielding the advantages and disadvantages to the competitive car. The racer delivers the maximum window of opportunity to gain advantage in a fierce duel [passing], managing wheel tactics, or sharpening telemetry to aggressive drive fitted to the contours of each unique track characteristics.

Figure 1 Source- Yas Marina Circuit Abu Dhabi

Source: Yas Marina Circuit Abu Dhabi

The cutting-edge, technology-showcase-of-sports scene found in Formula 1 has dubbed the apex-racing category for motor sports. Inside the renowned world of Formula 1, this motor sport generates worldwide acclaim and accolade for their engineering prowess and technical astute packaged into these aggressively fast-engineered machines. Smartly made machines — but dependent — not to mention keen athletic training and talents bestowed in these rare class of trim, zippy, and binocular vision drivers.

Figure 2- Source - Red Bull Racing Forum

Source: Red Bull Racing Forum

It’s really a wrestle between man and machine. Though, a racer learns early on not to wrestle with the machine, he loses time. Instead, it’s a careful calculative balance of split decisions and engineering, combined with whim. Cut slices toward the fractions of time — take on technology — trigger the right moments to enhance split second timing and on-demand performance. Accumulate these gains over the duration of the race. Enhance these car-passing opportunities with certain speed and handling enhancing technology.

Figure 2: Source - Red Bull Racing Forum

Source: Formula 1 Mclaren Racing

Looking across the grid, there is talent laden in all areas and discipline found across each team, coupled with engineers from all categories including aerodynamic specialist to embedded designers and systems engineers. Quite arguably, some even conjure the idea that the top performers in Formula 1 are overweighed by the countless engineering feats and advantage any team may have between each other. Ideally, it’s really a competitive game of the team’s engineering diligence and driver configuration cleverness that brings about the result of any race (70-80 laps) to the finish. Like in many sports these days, there’s technology all intertwined and designed to ensure maximum results and increase the capacity for performance, achieve the end goal.

In fact, drawn forth purely by engineering or design perspective, one can find parallels to how the Spitfire engines helped win the battle of Britain when the successor aspirating Rolls Royce dual supercharged engines had stronger performance at high altitudes as well as inclined accent and descent during the Battle of Britain where the air defense weighed the tipping point to the turnout of the war countering swarms of ME109s in this western theatre. In every aspect of Formula 1, there is a lot of computing involved. The computing casts are inter-dependent—serve different purposes—but also combined in a beautiful orchestration of “man-machine-driver-media-fans.”

On the one hand, there’s the horsepower required to compute different airspeed dynamics and telemetry over the car’s form, while on the other hand there are massive parallel computing used to analyze the streams of data transmitted by the cars in real time. No doubt, look no further, Formula 1 is thrives with tech and talent, ranging from electronics, electric motors, gas, passion, and atheletic know-how… Even to the point of real-time broadcast, there are the vast amounts of profiled data and video selectively transmitted to individual, teams, and media [airlifted via special 747s from race to race].

MCUs and MPUs help process, decide on game changing speed

Well, let’s fast forward through the world of the F-A-S-T and furious Formula 1. Not only in the motor racing sports, but automotive industry is captivating a growing share of embedded (electronic) devices encompassing a wide range of localized computing, sensors, actuators, and connected devices for telemetry. The sensors streamline real-time—in the case of Formula 1, data to the team’s pit crew garage—transmit to the computer/remote computer—which in turn is primarily based on the received data managed by mechanical or digital processes through actuators. In today’s market, more newly unveiled cars are moving closer to adopting electronic and connected capabilities; ranging from self parking, guidance sensors, auto radar, advance collision avoidance, hybrid powertrain (ERS), advance assisted drive, telemetry reporting, navigation, emergency, recharging, HUDs, brake by wire, skid control, safety, KERS, instant power assist systems, electric drive system, electronic shifters, air induction, turbo, ABS, etc… In fact, many of these are originally given birth in race engineering, evolved out from these pinnacle circuits to mainstream consumer application and vehicle platforms.

The concept of actuators and their influence in IoT nodes

In the embedded world, actuators are like sensors. An actuator is the mechanism, a control system that acts upon an environment. The control system can be simple, a fixed mechanical or electronic system, software-based (e.g. a 3D printer driver, robot control system, security system, electric [EV] motors, manufacturing line automation, medical linear applications), a human, or any other input. Now, let’s think of them in the language of Industrial Internet or Internet of Things — actuators can be digital — labeled as presence sensors, augmented HMI sensors, or filter reality sensors measuring certain keynotes to the external world (accelerometers, magnetometers, gravimeters, gyroscope, tilt, environment, force, thermal, chemical, gases, flow, gravimeter, etc). The computer has become an essential part of the modern car, which certainly makes a huge improvement, but it also requires trained personnel for their service. Of course, this is all coming along now with the next era of the connected car as things move closer to this reality. Let’s consider how we got there: historically to cars today to cars tomorrow — where could we possibly go?

Can the typical family car be perceived as a transformative vehicle platform?

It’s all driving this direction. Very soon, the connected car may very well be the most advance platform for any household.  The connected car is a highly efficient vehicle platform, connected to the grid and cloud, while also acting as an energy generating platform, as discussed by James O’Brien. “An industry standard for cars will do the same for autos as the USB cable has done for the computer world,” claims Jake Sigal, CEO at Livio, a company acquired by Ford Motors to help position the automobile platform to facilitate the connected car. Even now, there is much anticipation and support from Formula 1 drivers voicing their support for the connected car. Formula 1 drivers Nico Rosberg, Giedo van der Garde, Timo Glock and Jérôme d’Ambrosio offer their support for connected car technologies. They call it eCall and eco-driving. This common camaraderie demands maturation of this automotive trajectory supports alignment of safe, efficient and connected mobility.

Formula One drivers voice support for the connected car

Source: FIA Region @Vimeo Formula One drivers voice support for the connected car

Automotive computing is different. The embedded systems themselves must be adequately protected from extreme vibrations, energy, dust, heat, water, ice, and moisture (all types). Hence, they are truly different inheriting environments that are not even close to the typical personal computer. Embedded computing devices built into the cars must be technologically advanced at high levels and tough standards. Still there are more sophisticated ways to use embedded devices in the car. This sophistication is most evident in the design and construction of racing cars, most notably witnessed in Formula 1

(Continued in Part 2)

2 thoughts on “The Microcosm of IoT and connected cars in Formula 1 (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: The Microcosm of IoT and Connected Car in Formula 1 (Part 2) | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

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