Formula 1 fans will be only too aware of Mercedes F1’s domination of the sport in recent times, as the Brackley-based team has swept the board in terms of trophies in recent years.
But behind this success is a network of partners helping the team deal with the increasing technology needs of running a championship-winning outfit, helping push on research and development across a variety of areas.
Qualcomm signed a partnership with Mercedes at the beginning of the 2015 Formula 1 series, aiming to use its expertise in connected car and mobile technologies to give the team a major technological boost.
“If the guys at Brackley weren’t working for Mercedes or another Formula 1 team, they’d be working for NASA…they’re some of the brightest people under the sun,” says Graeme Davidson, vice president, technology at Qualcomm, “they push every boundary of every technology you can think of.”
The partnership between the two companies began at the beginning of last season, when Qualcomm moved in to deploy data transfer networks to help Mercedes F1 obtain more data from their cars during the free practice and qualifying sessions of a race weekend.
Davidson estimates that an hour of running a Formula 1 car generates around 50GB of data, so the need to get this transferred from the car to the pit wall for analysis is crucial, especially in a sport where a tenth of a second can be the difference between victory and second place.
Qualcomm’s network uses the 5GHz frequency band to begin broadcasting data from the car as soon as it enters the pit lane, meaning engineers can start their analysis almost instantly.
During these sessions, Mercedes has four video cameras pointed directly at tyres, not for video recording, but to collect raw data from each pixel that relates directly to tyre temperature and wear.
The tyres are the “window to the performance of the car,” Davidson says, and Qualcomm’s service allows the Mercedes team to identify issues and prepare alterations quicker than ever before
The company also installed modified access points on the pit lane wall to allow for small amounts of data to be transferred as the cars stream past on the finish straight – not a bad effort when the cars can be travelling at around 200mph.
“We’ve learnt a lot,” Davidson says, “It’s absolutely fantastic to see – and it’s a great route for Qualcomm too.”
He adds that the team expect the amount of data that it needs to offload from the vehicle to continue to increase as more and more sensors appear, and says that the company is currently exploring a move to the 60Ghz band, which would allow for a hundred times more data to be transferred, and at a quicker speed than previously known.
This has been a particular interest for the company in recent years, as it looks to promote the use of electric charging in both automotive and mobile device capacities.
“We knew the technology was ready…and wanted to use Formula E as a very public showcase,” Davidson says, noting that nearly all of the world’s major car manufacturers are interested in developing and implementing wireless charging in future vehicles.
And he predicts that the future of electric cars may well be closer than you think.
“Formula E has been a great showcase for us,” he says, “it’s been a continuation of the program of what QC is doing with OEMs around the world.”
“We really do envisage that when you’re speccing your new car out and checking the colours of the seats, and the in-car entertainment system, one of those boxes is going to say ‘wireless charging’, and you’re just going to tick that.”
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