Qualcomm Technologies, the research and development arm of Qualcomm Inc., has partnered with the Mercedes AMG Formula One team to install a wireless system that can download telemetry data from Mercedes' PETRONAS vehicle during practice sessions. Operating over unlicensed 5-GHz Wi-Fi, the system was designed to replace wired data offload for certain systems within the vehicle.
The system takes performance data from the thermal imaging cameras that monitor the status of the tires. The PETRONAS race car has both forward- and rear-facing cameras that continuously record thermal images of the tires. The team’s engineers can leverage this information to help improve the speed, efficiency, and safety of the vehicle, notifying the driver when the tires have to be changed. By not having to plug in the vehicle to access this information, Qualcomm notes that the Mercedes team can better use its limited practice time.
The system, which debuted in practice rounds at the Grand Prix in Austin last month, is designed around an enhanced version of IEEE 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which Qualcomm has named VIVE. A set of Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processors crunch the data gathered by the thermal cameras. The system then uploads it to multiple Wi-Fi receivers: one in the pit lane, and another located in the garage. Mercedes engineers can then analyze the information and send instructions to the driver.
At the heart of the system is one of the more advanced features of 802.11ac Wi-Fi—namely, Multi-User Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output (MU-MIMO) technology. MU-MIMO allows multiple Wi-Fi links to be assigned to four different devices simultaneously, increasing the total throughput and capacity of the WLAN system. In contrast, older versions of MIMO used inefficient time-slotting protocols to share a single spatial stream between multiple devices.
In an overview of the technology on its website, Qualcomm said that the MU-MIMO approach provides up to three times faster downloads when compared to a single-user MIMO system. Derek Aberle, the president of Qualcomm Inc., confirmed in an Autoblog article that the Mercedes system can deliver the same three-fold increase in download speeds. In the future, Qualcomm plans to migrate the system to 802.11ad Wi-Fi operating over the 60 GHz spectrum.
In Formula One racing, teams download reams of information ranging from engine power and aerodynamic loads to temperature status—all in attempt to accurately assess the performance of their highly complex and finely-tuned vehicles. The Formula One championship has permitted the use of telemetry data since the late 1980s, when teams were sending data in bursts as the vehicle passed close to the pit lane. Now, multiple antenna are placed around the racing circuit, constantly transmitting data about the engine, suspension, fuel, and temperature from the vehicles’ electronic control unit (ECU).
The wireless system is the first project in an agreement that Qualcomm Technologies and Mercedes AMG PETRONAS signed back in March. The collaboration is focused on developing new connected vehicle technologies to enhance the racing team’s preparation and vehicle performance.
For Qualcomm's Aberle, the program is an opportunity to research new technologies that could find their way into everyday vehicles. “This technology, as well as other advanced wireless technologies, has the potential to shape future developments in dedicated short-range communications, and vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to infrastructure communications,” he says.