The departure of Luca Cordero di Montezemolo after 23 years as Chairman of Ferrari, signals the likelihood of many changes at Modena. One of them, just revealed, is the mid-racing season switch by its Formula One team to new simulation software, which supplements the limited track testing permitted under FIA rules.
It has selected a system from U.K. driving simulation software specialist rFpro, which specializes in modeling the world’s Grand Prix circuits to deliver what the British company terms “new levels of realism and response speed”.
The change to rFpro’s TerrainServer product was implemented following extensive evaluation by Ferrari engineers. Ferrari’s Giacomo Tortora, responsible for F1 Vehicle Dynamics, says: “I think 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. The trial of rFpro was so promising that we immediately put it to use in production-intent applications within our F1 team.”
At Ferrari, "production-intent applications" describes engineers' ideas (typically aerodynamic refinements) being simulated before manufacture.
Ferrari’s decision to change operational software mid-season, and risk simulator downtime disrupting the engineering development schedule, underlines the scale of the performance improvement available, said rFpro Technical Director Chris Hoyle.
To be fully effective as an engineering development tool, DIL (driver-in-the-loop) simulation software must reproduce the track surface in minute detail and respond to dynamic inputs faster than the driver can detect; rFpro claims that its TerrainServer product is the first simulation package to fully satisfy both requirements. It was selected by Ferrari after “an exhaustive evaluation process,” says Hoyle.
Explaining the importance of highly accurate simulation software, Tortora stressed that not only is it essential that the circuit model capture the road surface accurately but also that it is validated to ensure that the vehicle model is running on the same road surface as the real car.
“The way in which TerrainServer captures every LiDAR scanned datapoint within the tire 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 says.
Ferrari runs multi-channel stereo projection, so it wanted minimal system latency to ensure the fastest possible refresh rate. Tortora adds: “rFpro is 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.”
It was the system’s speed that was a key to Ferrari’s decision, Tortora said, describing the video bandwidth as probably an order of magnitude greater than a traditional solution.
Hoyle said that as well as its position as a supplier to top motorsport teams, rFpro is now focusing on the mainstream automotive industry, with the opportunity to meet a wide range of requirements and to provide technology that could broaden simulation software applications.
The ability to simulate a vehicle’s dynamic behavior accurately, with DIL, makes it feasible to assess extreme situations such as those encountered when testing advanced driver assisted system (ADAS), ESP, and other control systems designed to affect the dynamic behavior of the vehicle.
“The motorsport industry is well known for being early adopters of new technologies to find competitive advantages, but we believe that it’s our production automotive clients that will benefit the most from our technology. That technology allows them to reintroduce the human test driver into the model-based development process, even for highly dynamic emergency maneuvers when ADAS systems become active.”
He claimed that the company’s current clients are experiencing reductions of up to 30% in costs incurred in development as a result of integrating rFpro’s software, by facilitating human testing considerably earlier in the development cycle.