Driving simulation specialist rFpro has created an accurate digital model of the London FIA Formula E circuit, ahead of the return of the series to the UK for the first time since 2016. The model will enable teams and their vehicles to experience the track in simulation and assess performance, such as ensuring the optimization of battery energy usage.
“In a first for top level motorsport, the Docklands track is able to include a section inside the ExCeL center because the cars are emissions-free,” said Peter Daley, rFpro MD. “This meant we had to capture all the features of the inside of the building with the same fidelity as the external areas to make the simulation fully realistic.”
Success in Formula E requires a team to squeeze all the available energy from the battery packs by the time its cars cross the finish line, otherwise the drivers could have gone faster at some point during the race. Optimizing energy consumption through calibration before the race is essential and this requires a highly accurate circuit model.
rFpro uses scanning data issued to the teams by Formula E to digitally recreate the circuits. However, as the tracks are often temporary and subject to last-minute adjustments, the models have to be continually updated to ensure that roads, barriers and curbs remain faithful to reality.
Public road circuits include bumps, road repairs and drain covers which can affect the way a car is driven and therefore the accuracy of predicted energy consumption. A driver-in-the-loop (DIL) simulator using high-fidelity surface models can enable the teams to account for this.
“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, haptic – must arrive on schedule in real time,” Daley explained.
“We are continually optimizing our technology to increase the speed at which the information is delivered. Our software provides video and audio signals with the lowest latency, while delivering the highest levels of graphical details and driver immersion. Professional drivers consistently confirm rFpro to be a clear step above other systems in back-to-back testing.”
The other key element in providing complete immersion (realism) in the simulator is an accurate road surface model for the effective simulation of response to road inputs, such as ride and impact harshness. rFpro’s simulation software, TerrainServer, is said to accurately reproduce every bump, curb, ripple and camber from the track, feeding high bandwidth, high fidelity, cleaned lidar point cloud data for each tire contact patch into a vehicle model in real time down to a 1cm resolution in XY and a 1mm resolution in height (Z).
“The London E-Prix is the first UK Formula E race since 2016, but when the cars take to the streets around the Royal Docks, the most competitive teams will have already given their drivers the opportunity to practice the circuit, both indoors and outdoors, in a convincing virtual environment,” Daley said.