Griiip G1 Series: Sensing the Way to Better Performance, Agility, and Speed in Formula Racing

Back in 2011, the first Israeli race car was built at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev when a team of students, led by Tamir Plachinsky, participated in a Formula SAE mechanical engineering competition in Italy. Plachinsky is one of thousands of college students from around the world that have built racing cars in competitions like this to build practical engineering skills.

This opportunity fueled Plachinsky’s childhood dream of racing fast cars to that point that he and fellow student Gil Zakay joined together and co-founded Griiip, a company that today combines technological innovation with a passion for race car driving. Plachinsky is the company’s CEO and Zakay is head of design.

The Griiip team uses innovative technology to perfect the company’s first product, the G1, which is a Formula 1000 race car. PTC gained some insights into the G1 from Gilad Agam, Griiip’s chief technology officer. Agam first volunteered his engineering services to the company while still in the Israeli army; he then joined Griiip in 2015 as a mechanical engineer. He recently moved into a CTO position, and it’s from this perspective that he provided us with some highlights of the company and its fast performance car.

What is the mission of Griiip?

We want to make motorsports more affordable, and we want to elevate the use of innovative technologies throughout the race car industry. Right now, Formula race car driving is an expensive sport – and it can cost hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars to compete in a singular season. Griiip is in the process of changing all that as we use advanced technologies in Formula 1000 cars to achieve an optimal balance between performance and cost.

On the cost side of things, early on we zeroed in on the fact that most of a driver’s expenses are for professional third-party personnel. For instance, there are typically several mechanics, a racing engineer, a driving instructor, and a race manager on a driver’s team at every run, whether it’s for training or racing. The driver is completely dependent upon these people and their knowledgeable expertise, but it’s costly to keep this team in place.

We are using PTC technologies to shift the equilibrium away from the team back to the driver. With the driver in control, he can now hire mechanics who aren’t specialized and he won’t need a race engineer or driving instructor because he will have all the knowledge he needs at his fingertips.

How are you giving control back to the driver?

Central to this concept are the Internet of Things (IoT) and the ThingWorx platform. There are IoT sensors all over the car – in the engine, on the suspension, and in all the temperatures and pressures gauges that help drive the dynamics and health of the car. With data from all these sensors, we are giving the driver the insights he would typically get from his team in a way that is easily accessible via a personalized page on our website.

With this intelligence at his fingertips, the driver can make the right decisions about the setup of the car, the maintenance, and even predict if something is going to fail soon. Based on the data, he can change any number of things to improve performance, such as wheel angles, tire pressure, or the stiffness of the suspension. These little, subtle modifications can help the driver go two seconds faster in a lap, and those few seconds could be crucial to winning.

What kind of insights can you provide to the driver?

We will be collecting data from every car we sell, and from every one of their runs, on every track. All of this data, which will soon be one of the largest databases of racing car data, is stored in the ThingWorx cloud and all of our drivers can access it (with the appropriate restrictions).

Using ThingWorx Studio, we will be analyzing the data, so that recommendations will be delivered back to the driver on how to improve performance and anticipate weak points. For instance, a driver can take a test run in the morning, and then through our analytics see how to improve the next one. He learns through the data what adjustments to make based on the weather, the track, and the conditions of the car.

By the end of the day, the progress made and the lessons learned provide an unparalleled experience for the driver. Once again, a little delay in braking, or a change tire pressure may give the driver the advantage he needs to win. Since these recommendations are built upon millions of data points, they might even be more accurate than the ones a hired race engineer could give, because the engineer wouldn’t have access to all this data. This is totally revolutionary.

There are insights on predicative maintenance as well. For instance, perhaps in the last run, ThingWorx anomaly detection indicated that the oil temperature was higher than usual, according to data on hundreds of other laps. This anomaly might not be a problem yet, but it is something that could be proactively addressed to avoid future problems.

How are you using Augmented Reality (AR) technologies?

We’ve started to collaborate with the PTC Service Lifecycle Management team to create an online instruction manual and catalog that will use augmented reality (AR) for servicing andGriiip repairing cars.

For instance, if a driver wrecks a tire during a race, he can point a mobile device to a damaged wheel. Then, with the help of AR, he can see what systems are needed to be repaired and what parts he will need to replace. He can view a very detailed on-demand maintenance manual, which incorporates 3D CAD data and ThingWorx-powered IoT data. This capability also utilizes a ThingMark, to orient the AR and to uniquely identify the experience.

With all this information, the driver can use Servigistics InService from PTC to access accurate and timely information on how to repair the wheel assembly. This service links PTC Windchill metadata and 3D representations of the parts from CREO, together with relevant documentation and even prices.

Using AR, the driver can visualize various alternatives on the actual car for replacing the damaged parts and evaluate the options. He can decide if it’s better to buy a complete wheel assembly kit or just the specific parts he pointed at.

Maintenance operations can also be better visualized using AR. For instance, if the driver needs to change the oil or air filter, the process could be animated, step by step, in Creo Illustrate and directly projected onto an AR life-size image of the actual car.

We are also considering using AR to enhance the fan experience. People in the stands could point a device at the track and see not only augmented data on the G1 car, but they could also see live-streaming video of action on the track that is not visible from their seats.

What’s next?

The G1 Series will be launched in Italy on April 2018 and we are very excited about that. Some of the technologies mentioned here will be available for our drivers to use on their first day in the series. The company is now in the process of building more G1 cars and we are offering potential clients a special price for test driving them on tracks in Italy, Israel, and the United States. Personally, I can’t wait to see where this road will lead us in the next years and feel privileged to have access to cutting-edge technologies that are helping us make our impact on the motorsport world.