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How circuit simulation is helping Formula E teams

26 January 2017

UK-based simulation software developer, rFpro, is providing three top Formula E teams its services in a bid to improve energy usage predictions.

rFactor Pro (rFpro) has revealed that it is scanning Formula E circuits on the evening of construction, and is relaying accurate and up-to-date information to its partner teams to be used for simulations.

“Success in Formula E requires a team to squeeze all of the available energy from the battery pack by the time the car crosses the finishing line, otherwise the driver could have gone faster at some point in the race,” said rFpro’s technical director, Chris Hoyle.

“Optimising the energy consumption by adjusting the calibration before the race relies on having an accurate circuit model, but with many circuits based in parks or city centres, the exact radius of the various corners may not be known until the barriers and kerbs have been laid.”

Despite being a global championship trying to push the boundaries of energy efficiency through cutting edge technology, there are some teams using incredibly arbitrary tools, Hoyle revealed. “Some teams rely on information sources such as Google Earth, which is really not accurate enough to give the precision required for optimising energy use.”

rFpro’s simulation centres around driver-in-the-loop (DIL), which addresses an issue that teams using alternative resources may not be aware of. Due to the split-second nature of racing, drivers are not always able to, or want to, use the shortest line around every corner because of uneven surface conditions and traffic on the circuit.

“To ensure that a driver behaves exactly the same in the simulator as on the track, the experience must be totally convincing; this means all the cues – visual, aural and haptic – must arrive without perceived delay in real time,” explained Hoyle.

“Some of the older simulators had up to a quarter of a second delay, called latency, which meant they were limited in their capabilities. Our software provides video signals 10 times faster, and audio signals 20 times faster, with every pixel on the video screens in exactly the right place, optically correct to a fraction of a degree.”

While the only remedy for the problem of traffic is ensuring the car is in clean air and therefore leading, rFpro is working with teams to assisting in mapping circuit surface contours and features.

TerrainServer is rFpro’s solution to accurately account for every bump, kerb, ripple and camber change on a track’s surface. Each virtual tyre contact patch receives high bandwidth, cleaned LiDAR point cloud data in real time up to 4kHz. According to rFpro, surface modelling is a core factor for “complete immersion” which provides crucial feedback changing the drivers impression of a vehicles ride and impact harshness.

“If the proposed 2018/19 Formula E rule changes go ahead, we will see the end of drivers switching to a second car during the race,” said Hoyle. “Having only one car, with one battery pack as an energy source, will place even more emphasis on extracting the maximum available energy; something which accurate simulation can help to achieve.”

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