Interrupted by the explosive revs from the hybrid V6 motor behind me, I nearly hit the barrier with the first press of the gas pedal. Miraculously, I turned the opposite lock a quarter of his turn and caught the slide, quickly moving up a couple of gears and taking him in what is probably the most famous corner on the F1 circuit. We headed towards one of the terrifying uphill slaloms of Eau Rouge. With a little braking, I cut from side to side and emerged unscathed onto the long Kemmel straight. Just a few seconds ago, the acceleration was tremendous, but as it picks up speed it subsides, giving you time to process what just happened.
I’m not actually in an F1 car, nor am I lapping around the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium. Instead, I’m sitting in a simulator called DMG-1 Motorsport in the offices of Dinisma, a sim builder based outside of Bristol in the west of England.
DMG-1 had already been touted by the journalists sitting in front of me as the world’s greatest and most realistic driving simulator. The reason is simple. I’ve never driven a real F1 car, but I was lucky enough to try out the Mercedes-AMG team’s driver-in-loop simulator (the same one Lewis Hamilton uses to learn new circuits). , I’ve been driving for several hours. Experience the virtual formula of his car in Base Performance Simulators, a sim business run by Le Mans winner Darren Turner.
Both were very impressive, but where Dynisma says its technology stands out is in that moment right at the start, when I caught the slide without thinking. Of course, it was partly blind luck, but what’s important here is the DMG-1’s latency, or rather the lack thereof.
Ash Warne, CEO and chief engineer at Dynisma, explains that other simulators have latencies of 30 to 40 milliseconds. This is the time it takes for the car to receive an input from the virtual environment, such as a loss of grip, and for the driver to experience that behavior. An elite athlete like an F1 driver has a reaction time of about 100 milliseconds, so when the simulator transmits information to his eyes, hands, and ears 40 seconds after the fact, his reaction time increases by 40 percent.
“That means it’s impossible to catch,” Warne said. [a slide] I drive a pretty edgy car, like a racing car with slick tires…and because of that problem… [test drivers] You can’t drive a car naturally like you would on a race track. ”
To get around this delay and prevent drivers from constantly failing to catch slides, other simulators have engineers add understeer to the vehicle model, but this is unrealistic and has no correlation to anything. ” [the race team] It really runs in real life,” Warne added.
In contrast, Dynisma’s DMG-1 has a latency of 3 to 5 milliseconds, the manufacturer says. This allows the driver to reach the limits of its natural adhesion, as the car reacts more realistically without artificial understeer, and the information is transmitted to the driver’s senses quickly enough. , can instinctively react to problems such as the sudden impact of oversteer caused by a tailslide. I hope they do something about it.
“No one can match this latency,” Warne said, adding that Dynisma’s superior technology is a combination of hardware and software. Also, FlightHe is a step away from the simulation-derived technology used in other sims and is a completely new approach.
Despite its modest presence on an industrial estate in Bristol, Dinisma already counts Ferrari among its customers, delivering simulators to the Italian F1 team in 2021. With cost reductions aimed at leveling the playing field, simulators that can operate day and night are more important than ever.
Back at Spa-Francorchamps, I’m behind the wheel of a generic, unnamed F1 car for the 2019 season. I’m sitting in a carbon fiber bathtub. It has a realistic steering wheel decorated with buttons and switches, and a seated position similar to that of lying in a bath, with your feet raised above your hips. I’m surrounded by a giant projection of a virtual world, and I’m wearing a helmet with a headset and microphone to talk to the engineer. I primarily fill this communication channel by apologizing for the crash and needing to reset the system.
The simulator runs on 10 computers: 5 for graphics, 1 for physics, 1 for controlling the hardware, and the others for auxiliary systems. The computers communicate via a high-bandwidth fieldbus, exchanging information 4,000 times per second.
The carbon tub is held high on a platform that can move in six directions, simulating vertical and lateral forces, as well as up and down, rotation, pitch and yaw. It can rotate more than 60 degrees per second and up to 22 inches in either horizontal or vertical axis. It cannot fully reproduce the intense straight-line acceleration of F1 cars, nor can it withstand the 5G braking force experienced by F1 drivers. But it’s still the brutal sensory overload I secretly hoped it would be.
He doesn’t have that much sense of speed, but he’s physically huge. I spent a few hours on this sim, mostly lapping around Spa in his F1 car, and was exhausted by the end. I’m starting to get blisters on my hands and can’t press the brake pedal hard enough with my left foot, so I need a break and cool down.
While I grab a much-needed glass of water, my sim is loaded up with a generic tram. Dinisma doesn’t reveal exactly what it is other than to say it’s a moderately powerful rear-wheel-drive sedan. Once back in the car, the race track was replaced by a virtual proving ground with numerous driving lanes to test different surfaces.
I drive toward a lane full of speed bumps that feel eerily realistic. This demonstration may lack the drama of sending an F1 car into Eau Rouge at full speed, but the simulation is just as impressive. Speed bumps feel exactly like they would in the real world. The next cobbled Belgian parve I tried was similar, with cars rumbling beneath me just as I remember from my last visit to Bruges.
This is where Dynisma’s second business case comes into play. In addition to selling simulators to race teams, we also provide simulators to car manufacturers. Automakers are spending more time than ever developing new cars digitally rather than in the real world. Today, development tends to begin with such simulations, allowing ride and suspension characteristics to be adjusted before a single prototype vehicle leaves the factory. I’m still sitting in the carbon tub, but Dynisma offers the manufacturer his DMG-1 Automotive. This is a motion his sim with the same technical capabilities as the motorsport version, but with the ability to incorporate roofs, doors, and the entire cabin of the car. Full interior.
Dynisma, which can carry a 1,650-pound payload, says the simulator is “suitable for testing ride comfort and NVH” [noise, vibration and harshness]Like other studies where a real feeling of being in a moving vehicle is required. ”
I recently spoke with Volkswagen engineers who, along with virtual reality and mixed reality headsets, are working to fine-tune the ergonomics of future cars’ interiors long before prototypes are assembled. You mentioned that you are using a simulator similar to this.
Before leaving, we had one last demonstration. Now I’m back in an F1 car, this time at the Monaco circuit, and I’m wearing a mixed reality headset made by a Finnish company called Varjo. A small screen inside the headset shows a live view of my hands on the steering wheel, captured by the camera on the front of the headset. The rest of my field of vision is taken up by the towering apartment blocks of Monte Carlo, rendered in high-resolution 3D, and the parallax effect slightly distorts my view of them as I move my head, just like real-life objects. Move. If you look around them.
I know a lot about the Monaco circuit, but the experience is completely underwhelming. I crashed many times and every time I hit a barrier the system had to be reset and I was back on the starting line. You’re mentally and physically tired, and you start to wonder if you’ll be able to complete even one lap before throwing in the towel.
I slowed down and managed to stumble through the principality’s narrow streets. It’s quite an eye-opening experience. An hour earlier, I was feeling pretty confident in my ability to pilot an F1 car without crashing on a high-speed circuit like Spa. But using a virtual reality headset cranked up the immersion to 11, and I just couldn’t handle it. The speed of the cars and the narrowness of the circuit, as well as the claustrophobia caused by his 3D environment, were too much to deal with.
I’m humbled to end this and return to the real world.
Driving an F1 simulator has always been a fun way to spend a few hours. But I’ve done it before and I’m familiar with how these systems work. What really impressed me was the completely mundane experience of driving a tram over cobblestones and speed bumps. Such technology has the potential to save significant time and money in the research and development of new vehicles.
With technology like this, a physical prototype can be built up until the last few creases need to be ironed out, or simply what has already been revealed over thousands or even millions of simulated miles. It may be constructed only as a means of confirmation. As electric platforms with few moving parts simplify cars, interiors, ride comfort, and driving dynamics play a larger role in defining a car’s character than propulsion. Far from exciting video games, simulator technology will play a key role in developing the ride and feel of future cars long before they hit the road.