FIA using software to spot race incidents in real-time

2011 F1 season

Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber, Montreal, 2011

Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber, Montreal, 2011

The FIA is using new software to automatically detect when a driver has broken the rules during a race.

Racewatch uses real-time data from lap timing, the Global Positioning System and tyre information to look for patterns in car movement that indicate a driver may have broken the rules.

The system works in conjunction with the Riedel Communications system used by the FIA to monitor races.

Gareth Griffith, the developer behind the software, told the FIA’s InMotion magazine how it works:

“The idea of using it for Race Control started a couple of years ago. We tied in the cameras with the timing and the GPS, so we knew exactly where a car was on the track.

“Then we started to analyse the data to pick out incidents. The software creates alerts and that automatically takes the Riedel technicians to the right cameras, instead of them having to find them, as used to happen.

“Within a few seconds [race director] Charlie [Whiting] can be looking at the incident: either for safety purposes or to refer it to the stewards. It is automated, using the data available and algorithms based on the interactions in that data.

??In the case of baulking, for example, the algorithms can analyse the proximity of two GPS signals to see how long it takes the car behind to close from five to two seconds behind the car in front. We can then measure how long the second car stays behind the first and if there is no time lost then there was no incident.??

The software has been developed since 2008. Racewatch can already detect certain kinds of incidents automatically and even determine which driver is at blame for a collision. But the decision to give a penalty remains in Whiting’s hands.

“The data can show us when a car is not behaving as it should be behaving and so we can ascertain at what moment that changed and if there was another car in close proximity at that moment.

“There are already automatic alerts for speeding under yellow flags, which is hard to spot by eye, and they now come up automatically using the data, but with all of this it is still Charlie?s decision whether to refer incidents to the Stewards and their decision as to whether the driver is penalised or not.”

You can read more about the system in the current issue of InMotion (PDF link).

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28 comments on FIA using software to spot race incidents in real-time

  1. craig-o (@craig-o) said on 28th July 2011, 17:03

    I’m liking this.

  2. brxtr (@broxter) said on 28th July 2011, 17:08

    Mmm… software.

  3. bosyber (@bosyber) said on 28th July 2011, 17:09

    Reads like an obviously good idea, using technical aids to select possible incidents and do some analysis of them, having humans to judge. Now could we see the list of recent incidents that were flagged/decided thanks to help from this.

    I wonder if this was used to conclude HAM got an advantage from it in a certain Spa race (in beta phase, of course ;)

  4. BasCB (@bascb) said on 28th July 2011, 17:10

    Sounds interesting. Just I hope no one will come up with automatic penalizing as well, lest the drivers end up like driving in F1 2010 for all the penalties!

    • Fixy (@fixy) said on 28th July 2011, 17:17

      So have they been using it since 2008 whilst also improving it? Let’s see if it can help to bring more sensible solutions to racing incidents.

    • Cacarella said on 28th July 2011, 17:21

      LOL. I was just going to suggest they should use software to automate penalties! :)

      At least to keep them consistent no?

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 28th July 2011, 19:26

        that would be a very sensible option.

        Put in place a jurisdiction SW which suggests previous relevant cases to the stewards and penalties given, with the option to look at them so you can get a bit of consistency

        • Mike said on 28th July 2011, 23:53

          Really I think there are waaaaay too many variables involved for that.

          The software developer would insist it was possible I’m sure, but it only takes one bad decision to incite fans and critics alike.

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 9th August 2011, 21:43

            The trick would be, you don’t let the SW decide anything, just suggest comparable cases as reference.

  5. hawkii (@hawkii) said on 28th July 2011, 17:21

    That’s an incredible use of the available technology. Nice to see an organisation that just implements this stuff for the advantage of everyone, unlike football where they’re still arguing about setting deadlines for when they might possibly discuss using just goalline technology.

    You can knock F1 for many things, but they get so, so, so much right.

  6. bosyber (@bosyber) said on 28th July 2011, 17:47

    That inMotion issue actually has a few nice articles in it too.
    The attitude towards doping looks like it might actually work, quite different from the hysteria around it in some other, unnamed two wheeled sport:

    “In fact,” Camargo adds, “in motorsport, more
    than other sports, anti-doping is very important just
    from a safety point of view because in motorsport
    you put the lives of others in danger. It’s not just your
    own health you are risking but other people’s as
    well – the marshals, the public, other drivers.

    “The FIA really believes that prevention is much
    more critical than sanctioning people,” she says.
    “Priority must be given to education and prevention
    rather than to repression, which does not necessarily
    achieve the objectives of a federation whose primary
    aim is to reduce as far as possible the risks inherent
    in practising a high-risk sport. … Our objective is to
    avoid, as much as possible, people contravening the
    rules without even knowing it.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th July 2011, 18:03

      some other, unnamed two wheeled sport:

      Would that be the Tour de France where seemingly every other winner is drugged up to the eyeballs?

      • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 28th July 2011, 18:12

        I did not name them, I know how much you like them :)

        But now that you talk about cycling, I read an article in my newspaper about how it is likely this time the TdF winner didn´t use drugs, bc. he was just as fast (slow?) as last year, but his competition was less good, with doping agencies sort of suggestively nod at and feel smug. And meanwhile the 2010 winner is still not 100% cleared. Yeah, hmmm.

      • SparkyJ23 (@sparkyj23) said on 28th July 2011, 22:00

        You mean the ONLY sport that tests more than any other – has biometric passpports – like no other – and hence catches more cheats than any other?

        Cadel evens has been tested more this year than Rafa Nadal has in his whole career and you think cycling has the problem?

        Look here http://www.uci.ch/templates/UCI/UCI2/layout.asp?MenuId=MTU4ODY&LangId=1 and then compare that with F1 and its anti-doping measures.

  7. DaveW said on 28th July 2011, 17:47

    The baulking analysis shows the flaw. The computers cannot determine whether the driver behind slowed down because he had to; or even if he did it to draw the foul. The computer might be able to find the right cameras, but seem useless in adjudicating penalties.

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 28th July 2011, 18:07

      Which is why Whiting is the one to decide to forward it, and why the stewards are the ones judging it then. It largely is used to analyse and help humans analyse a situation.

      I do agree that the yellow-flag and baulking examples (and mentioning that Kovalainen crash w. WEB,BUT,HAM not being very able to do muc) show the risk of too much computerised analysis that could reduce the amount of independent thinking by the stewards, but at least the responsibilities are well thought out.

  8. geo132 (@geo132) said on 28th July 2011, 18:09

    I can see there might be a future for me in F1 after all, being a software engineer..

  9. Eggry (@eggry) said on 28th July 2011, 18:48

    so Codemaster should implement into the game…

  10. Hallard said on 28th July 2011, 20:30

    “Racewatch can already detect certain kinds of incidents automatically and even determine which driver is at blame for a collision.”

    Yeah…Im pretty sure that software programs cant determine where the fault truly lies in a racing incident, unless its obvious enough for the stewards to make a call without said software. There are simply too many variables that this software wouldnt be able to take into account. Im very skeptical about this.

  11. A4P said on 28th July 2011, 21:37

    Hard times are coming for Lewis ‘The-stewards-always-blame-me’ Hamilton… :-P

  12. A4P said on 28th July 2011, 21:41

    Sorry,
    *Even harder times. ;)

  13. Legomanshair said on 28th July 2011, 22:09

    Oh for the days when a racing accident could exist! They are asking humans to drive like robots and then wonder why critics call f1 boring and wonder why people don’t try to overtake without drs. I’d just love to see this system introduced in football there would be more red cards in 1 week than in the last 60 years put together. The way I see it f1 in 1998 wasn’t broken so why did it need fixing?

  14. Ben Bailey said on 28th July 2011, 23:45

    Sounds like a great thing to me. Hopefully they’ll bring in a hawk eye type system so we can see who turned in on who in future rather than having stupid rule that its basically always the driver overtakings fault if they crash. Massa turning in on Lewis in monaco being a prime example rather than leaving room like lewis did for schumi.
    I really hope this is the next step forward.

  15. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 29th July 2011, 8:24

    This needs to be called “Stewardtron 5000″.

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