How the Internet of Things is improving performance on the Formula One power unit operation

General Manager, Internet of Things, IBM

Formula One racing has changed dramatically during the last decade. The focus has shifted from raw power to using technology that can squeeze every possible bit of performance out of the cars. In 2014, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), which governs Formula One racing, published new regulations that required all Formula One cars to use hybrid engines and limited fuel consumption during races. These regulations are driving the sport to focus on developing increasingly energy-efficient automotive technologies.

Power unit optimization

Today’s Formula One engines are limited to a displacement of 1.6 liters, similar to the displacement found in a compact sedan. Yet they exceed 180 miles per hour and drive for more than 90 minutes on approximately 25 gallons of fuel. Formula One teams achieve this feat with the help from a power unit and energy recovery system that consists of motors for producing added power from electricity that is generated using exhaust heat. In addition, an electronics control system manages the entire process. 

Power units are as important to a car’s success as is the engine in today’s Formula One circuit. Honda recently discovered this point after their first year back in 2015 after a seven-year hiatus from the racing circuit.

Honda is implementing Internet of Things technology in 2016 to monitor and analyze data from more than 160 sensors on the power unit of its Formula One car. Race data from the sensors will help Honda optimize its power units by streamlining performance and improving fuel efficiency.

Honda R&D developed a new cognitive-based system to analyze data from the power unit, quickly and efficiently check residual fuel levels and estimate the possibility of mechanical problems. Honda is using the IBM Internet of Things for Automotive solution to deliver data generated from power units directly to the cloud for near-real-time analysis.
“After a seven year hiatus from F1 racing, Honda R&D is excited to work with IBM to apply Internet of Things technology to improve our power units,” said Satoru Nada, chief engineer and manager, Power Unit Development Division, Honda R&D Co., Ltd., HRD Sakura. “Our racing initiative is typically a gateway to extend advanced technology to produce highly efficient and more eco-friendly vehicles.”
Results are shared by the Honda's trackside members equipped with tablets and mobile technology, and analyzed in near real time by researchers at HRD Sakura, and Honda’s R&D facility in Japan. Transmitting this analysis as the race is taking place allows for adjustments to basic metrics such as temperature, pressure and power levels. In addition, IBM Cognos software helps the research team to build very complex performance models to measure energy recovery of the power unit.

Impressive performance results

Honda noted the improved reliability of the power unit in trial runs that took place in Barcelona, Spain in late February 2016. The 2016 Formula One season kicks off soon, with the Australian Grand Prix on 20 March 2016.