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A hundredth of a second makes the difference: how AVL vehicle simulation uses the Microsoft Cloud to make racing cars just a ‘wee’ bit faster

While some motorsport events still have to get by without an audience due to the pandemic, here is a look at the innovation that usually takes place behind the scenes.

On a normal Friday afternoon on the race track, pre-pandemic, practice laps would just be finishing. The driver gets out of the car and removes his helmet and gloves. Now it’s time for the engineering team. They all have the same goal in mind: optimizing lap time.

A split second can change everything in racing and teams in many of the world’s leading series, like Formula 1 or NASCAR, depend on the simulation tool Vehicle Simulation Model (VSM) from AVL to help achieve better lap times. AVL is based in the Styrian province of Austria, with head office in Graz and others in local innovation centers. It is a global market leader, known for developing VSM, a fully responsive application for vehicle dynamics simulation that is designed especially for racing.

The company has created VSM and several other racing solutions under its global brand AVL RACING. In the highly dynamic and competitive racing environment, innovation is highly prized. Customized projects range from simulation inquiries, to realistic test procedures and support directly at the racetrack. This means that AVL RACING is involved throughout the customer development cycle in its role as an integrated and neutral partner. The experience gained is also be used for developing future mobility solutions.

When it comes to executing its solutions, AVL places their trust in Microsoft as a strong and safe cloud partner. Since VSM has been running on Microsoft Azure Cloud, it has been able to offer its customers even more simulations in an even shorter time span. This unbelievable computing power combined with the HP of the racing car makes an unbeatable team.

“In motorsports, hundredths of seconds can decide between victory and defeat“, Michael Peinsitt, Skill Team Leader RACING at AVL, summarizes.

With our simulation tool VSM and the power, reliability and speed of Microsoft Azure, we enable our customers to squeeze out exactly those decisive hundredths.

100,000 rounds ahead: using the data cloud to get to pole position

Speed is essential not only on the racetrack. Between practice sessions, there is little time for adjusting screws. Better results on the racetrack can also be achieved by making changes in driving style, the vehicle or the strategy. Possibilities multiply depending on how the parameters are combined and engineers have very little time to decide which modifications to make on the racing car.

This is exactly the situation that the simulation engineers have used VSM to prepare for. Thousands of options have been simulated ahead of time using the Azure Cloud solution from Microsoft, and they can be used for comparison with the actual data from the racing car. This advancement is clearly visible: a few years ago, only about 5,000 laps could be analyzed. With today’s technology, around 100,000 laps can be covered through simulation. That equates to a computing performance of 10,000 computers available to the engineer.

Based on driver feedback, data from the car, and simulation data, the engineer can decide on appropriate changes. But these need to be checked through many simulations and time is of the essence. The computing power that is necessary for this analysis comes directly to the racetrack from the Microsoft Azure Cloud. Within less than 40 minutes, the results are there.

“Our businesses have more in common than you can see at first glance. Powerful speed is complemented by the highest possible security measures, both in the race and in the cloud simulation,” says Hermann Erlach, Chief Operating Officer at Microsoft Austria about the cooperation with AVL. He continues:

Flexibility and the ability to respond to the most diverse conditions is a prerequisite. The individual customization options offered by Microsoft Azure ensure the decisive added value for AVL. An added value that they can pass on to their customers with the Vehicle Simulation Model.

Dynamic vehicle simulation as a decisive factor

How fast can the vehicle corner when the (simulation) driver does everything right? How do the tyres respond to changed conditions, for instance, when there is rain on the racetrack? Many factors come into play in racing. With VSM, the entire vehicle, including the driver and the racetrack, are simulated and analyzed in real time.

Microsoft Azure provides an environment that significantly eases the secure networking of systems and makes fast and direct access to tables and databases possible. This allows a particularly clear presentation of the VSM simulation results, a big advantage of this simulation tool chain. Finished frameworks support in distributing the simulations. Meta services such as artificial intelligence (AI) contribute to the computing performance.

It feels especially great to hear that a victory was achieved because our simulation tool was able to simulate 50,000 laps in the Microsoft Azure Cloud,” says Peinsitt. At the end, it’s the hundredth of a second that leads to victory. And AVL is just as excited as its customers and their teams.