20 Feb 2023 at 21:32
In the past ten years, the car has developed much further than in the previous hundred years. Not only electric propulsion, but especially software and data in the ‘cloud’ play an essential role in this. The latest technology is first extensively tested in motorsport.
Expectations are high: will Max Verstappen be able to become world champion in Formula 1 again this year with his new car from Red Bull Racing? However, the Dutch racing fans, united in the ‘Orange Army’, are not only on the benches in the new F1 season to cheer on the defending champion. This year, compatriot Nyck de Vries also joined the AlphaTauri F1 team.
In the 2020/2021 season, De Vries became world champion in Formula E with Mercedes-Benz. That is the softly humming electric cousin of F1, which is so eager to show the world that car racing can also be environmentally friendly.
Formula E chooses the streets of major world cities as its battleground, in an attempt to win the hearts of racing fans in a completely CO2 neutral way. Numerous car brands, such as Nissan, DS Automobiles, Maserati and Jaguar have lovingly embraced Formula E. This is how they prepare their latest technological developments for large-scale production.
A stable and secure connection, anywhere in the world, is essential.
Friedemann Kurz, Hoofd IT van Porsche Motorsport
Winning thanks to data
Porsche also participates in Formula E. The German sports car brand has a lot of racing experience and, for example, has already won the famous 24-hour race of Le Mans 19 times – an absolute record. The car manufacturer likes to point out that all racing experience is invariably used to raise the qualities of the production models to a higher level. The same goes for Formula E.
“It is absolutely not our goal to collect trophies in this all-electric racing series,” says Friedemann Kurz, Head of IT at Porsche Motorsport. The latest production models – such as the all-electric successor to the Porsche Macan – will soon benefit from all the knowledge gathered in Formula E.
With 0.0 percent power at the finish
Thousands of gigabytes of data are collected during a race weekend, which are necessary to analyze and perfect the behavior and setup of the race car. “Efficiency is the key to profit,” says Kurz. “If the driver does everything he can to get ahead of his opponents at the start of the race, the battery is guaranteed to be empty long before the race is over.”
“On the other hand: if you opt for the most economical setting possible, you will end the race as the last runner. With all the data we collect, we calculate an optimal ratio between fast lap times and economical energy consumption. finish line to have 0.0 percent power in the batteries.”
In order to store and process all collected data, all Formula E teams are directly connected to their own computer networks – the ‘cloud’ – during the race weekends. “Essential is a stable and secure connection, anywhere in the world,” says Kurz. “If one file from the cloud were temporarily unavailable or read incorrectly, this could have a direct impact on our race results.”
So why not bring a mobile data center to the races, close to the team’s pit box? “Because that means we are ignoring our goal of racing completely CO2 neutral in Formula E. We would have to rent a cargo plane for every race just for our computer system. By working via the cloud, we also save high costs.”
BMW is going to turn the entire windscreen into a screen
Electronics will also play an even more important role in the consumer cars of the future. “The entire automotive industry is in the midst of a digital transition, not just in-vehicle technology but also within the factory,” said Christian Ott, CTO Industry Solutions at NetApp. “Nowadays, the development of a new model is completely digital. All data is on computers, which means that the development of a new car is much faster than before. By working in the cloud, manufacturers do not have to invest in the infrastructure of their own expensive computer networks.”
Anyone who buys a new car in a few years will immediately be confronted with important digital developments in the car. “Look, for example, at the BMW concept car that was presented at CES in Las Vegas,” says Ott. “In that car, the entire windscreen has been transformed into an interactive screen. And that requires very extensive, complex software.” BMW says a similar control system will be ready for use in its production models as early as 2025.
Added new functions without a visit to the garage
Many electric cars can now update the software ‘over-the-air’. We will also see this application more and more often in the future and its possibilities have been extensively tested in Formula E. While the car is charging overnight, the operating system is being improved, and new functions may even be added. To give an example: thanks to an ‘over the air’ software update, the Model S and Model Y have recently acquired the Steam gaming platform. Motorists no longer have to go to the garage for these types of updates.
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