Part 7 of 8: Meaningful 5G Innovation for Motorsports
The in-car driving career for most professionals in a top series is usually less than 7 years. Drivers are often in professional development programs for more than 10 years before a very select few reach the big show. However, the love of driving and the need to compete can be life-long. So what are passionate racers to do when they are outside their peak years? 5G Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC) may provide the answer. By leveraging the speed of this next-gen cellular connectivity, there is a real opportunity for developing and retired racers alike to safely ride along or drive real cars on the track – remotely.
To understand why 5G can succeed where previous technologies fall short, let’s take a look at the numbers.
The Big Idea
295 feet per second (fps) leaves little room for error. This is often the velocity of a NASCAR CUP series race car at top speed during competition. The human nervous system transmits signals from the body to the brain at roughly 328 fps. Considering the difference of only 33 fps, there is little time for drivers to think while moving at that speed. Now imagine if the human driver was removed from the vehicle. Can the vehicle still be operated safely if controlled remotely via a cellular connection? For the answer to this question, we again have to turn to the numbers.
The top speed an LTE device can travel while maintaining a reliable data connection is roughly 180 mph. Latency on a consumer device with a consumer grade SIM card from your favorite Mobile Network Operator (MNO) is often around 35 ms. If a ‘connected’ race car is traveling at 200 mph with these network latency properties, then the user experience of a remote ‘passenger’ would be approximately 97 feet back from where the car actually is on the real track. This offers an amazing ride along experience for fans, but shows that traditional LTE – while undoubtedly powerful – cannot support the connectivity properties required to execute remote teleoperations safely without any Artificial Intelligence (AI) onboard assistance in the car.
However, when fit for purpose in-car edge computing is made available and the network latency is reduced, then there is a real chance to allow drivers to run laps from anywhere with full motion, video and audio live streams pumped into their simulator in real time.
Edge Compute & Cellular Data is like Peanut Butter & Chocolate
Some things are just better together. Much like the beloved Reese’s peanut butter cup, small form factor edge computing and low latency cellular networks were meant for each other. This combination unlocks amazing new experiences that were previously not possible in a variety of fields and outlets.
The sport of racing is a great example. Just like NASCAR CUP cars, closed loop private 5G networks are fast. User plane latency on a 5G wireless connection setup for URLLC can be below 7 ms. If a car was traveling at 160 mph then the operator would only be roughly the length of a basketball foul shot in variance between the car on the track and remote teleoperations. At this speed, the human nervous system is only 90 fps faster than the car, dramatically reducing the level of risk from remote teleoperations versus an in-car pilot on a closed track. This means that Private 5G at or near the track allows lines between racing simulation and reality to be blurred.
Supporting the Next Generation of Drivers while Honoring the Legends
For racers that are no longer allowed to operate physically in the car due to age, health, insurance or other general safety concerns, Private 5G-enabled remote teleoperations provide an outlet to get safely behind the wheel again. On the other hand, up and coming drivers currently in development are digital natives. They have always known driver assists, simulated race lines and grew up on racing simulators. Private 5G paves the way for next-gen in car remote training applications for this generation of drivers.
One such driver is Ryan Preece, who was just named the backup driver to Aric Almirola at Stewart-Haas Racing. Part of the job for Ryan Preece in 2022 is responsibility for the simulator program as a reserve driver. Cellular private networks over a closed loop private Radio Access Network – or even private networking over existing Mobile Network Operator coverage – are uniquely positioned to allow simulation and on-track experience to be merged into a new augmented reality training tool with real cars on real tracks in real time.
Meanwhile, an even younger generation of racers is beginning to make a name for itself. Keelan Harvick is quickly becoming a champion in his own right in the karting world, and Brooklyn Newman is turning hot laps on the dirt at Millbridge. Up-and-comers like them may be the biggest beneficiaries of remote teleoperations in racing. The sport has become much more digital and metrics-driven from the time when proud parents like Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman started their tremendous careers. Having the ability to blend simulator and on-track experiences can fast track driver development. For example, Kevin could do a live ride-along with Keelan or even take control of the car from a racing simulator thanks in part to the communications advancements offered by 5G and Expeto’s unique ability to localize data traffic using xRouter in the cloud and xCore at the track.
Ride with Expeto
Expeto is proud to support our technology partners in pushing racing to new heights with driver development and new fan experiences. This concept was field-proven on several occasions in 2021 including remote asset teleoperations followed by a remote ride along with Ken Schrader under the supervision of Tony Stewart before the SRX series race in Nashville. Giving drivers, crew chiefs and training staff access to the entire in-car experience – how it feels, what it sees and what it senses – is creating a real competitive advantage. Even fans thousands of miles away can be part of the experience thanks to new possibilities offered by emerging 5G and even existing LTE services. Having your network, your way, anywhere makes all the difference.
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