If you suddenly see Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen of
Ferrari doing exceptionally well in the remaining rounds of Formula One, then
you can assume that the driving simulation software they used has benefitted
them big time. Because the Ferrari F1 team is now using driving simulation
software from specialist software company rFpro that models the world’s Grand
Prix circuits with unprecedented levels of realism and response speed. The
change was implemented following convincing results during extensive evaluation
by Ferrari engineers, says a press release.
rFpro is a specialist software company that has developed
driver-in-the-loop simulators for vehicle dynamics applications, offering the
fastest video and audio pipelines, an architecture for soft-real-time model
execution and an optically correct off-platform vision system optimised for
motion profiles suited to ride and handling development. This specialised area
of driver-in-the-loop simulation is all about closing the loop through the
driver and the vehicle model as quickly as possible while delivering a high
quality and immersive environment.
Ferrari’s decision to change operational software,
mid-season, underlines the scale of the performance improvement available
because simulator downtime in F1 can mean costly interruption to the engineering
development schedule. Ferrari already had a well-developed DIL
(driver-in-the-loop) software solution in which they had invested significantly
over a number of years, but the leap in performance was too great to ignore,
says the release.
Ferrari’s Giacomo Tortora, responsible for Vehicle Dynamics,
explained that the trial of rFpro was so promising that the team immediately
put it to use in production-intent applications within the F1 team. To be fully
effective as an engineering development tool for supplementing the limited
track testing permitted in F1, simulation software must reproduce the track
surface in minute detail and respond to dynamic inputs faster than the driver
can detect. TerrainServer from rFpro is the first simulation package to fully
satisfy both these requirements, and was selected after an exhaustive
Tortora added that Ferrari’s
tests are the most demanding faced by any vendor. “We tested video bandwidth
and latency, road surface data quality and visual accuracy for the digital
circuit models,” he said.
"It is important
that the circuit model captures the road surface accurately, but also that it
can be validated to ensure that our vehicle model is running on the same road
surface as the real car,” he continued. "The way in which TerrainServer
captures every LiDAR scanned data-point within the tyre contact patch, and
integrates them all to provide our vehicle model with accurate road input,
improves correlation with our measured data and also feels more realistic for
the driver,” he noted
To ensure the necessary level of track surface detail, rFpro
uses LiDAR scanned data, reproducing surface features in 3D with an accuracy
better than 1mm in Z (height) and 1cm in X and Y (position), representing a
ten-fold improvement over the resolution previously available. In addition to
its existing library of circuit data, rFpro can provide customers with turn-key
solutions for scanning, modelling and providing high definition LiDAR data for
other tracks, or even public road test routes.
Ferrari was equally
demanding of the response speed, or latency, of the system, according to
Tortora. "Video bandwidth is very important to us because we run
multi-channel stereo projection and also wanted the fastest possible refresh
rate,” he said, adding that “rFpro are able to deliver the maximum video
bandwidth, in stereo, at very high refresh rates with just a single frame of
latency between our vehicle model and the projectors. This is the fastest
solution on the market: video bandwidth is probably an order of magnitude
greater than a traditional OpenGL based solution."
With most of the top
F1 teams now using rFpro’s software, the company is turning its attention to
the mainstream automotive industry, where the potential applications are even
greater. The ability to simulate a vehicle’s dynamic behaviour accurately, with
a driver in the loop, makes it feasible to assess extreme situations such as
those encountered when testing ADAS systems, ESP and other control systems
designed to affect the dynamic behaviour of the vehicle.
To deliver complete
DIL simulators for the engineering development of vehicle dynamics, and the
control systems and active safety systems that affect vehicle dynamics, rFpro
works in partnership with motion platform providers such as McLaren, Ansible
Motion and MOOG. The company’s products can wrap around vehicle models from all
the popular modelling environments, including Dymola, SIMPACK, Simulink,
AVL-VSM, CarSim, CarMaker, LMS AMESim, VI-Grade and C/C++.
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