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As a child, I had remote-controlled race car toys.  To steer the car, some were tethered to a long wire, but the newer ones were radio controlled. I imagined rounding the corners of an imaginary track in my living room frequently crashing into the legs of furniture.

Earlier this year, Michael Martens, CEO of Riedel Networks, called to ask if we could participate in a project to remotely connect a driver to an electric race car. The car would navigate the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria at over 150 km per hour. The driver would be in Graz, Austria – roughly 82 kilometers (51 miles) away from the track in a racing simulator.

This is not a toy, but a very sophisticated, electric race car built by technicians of DTM, one of the most famous touring car racing series in the world, in conjunction with project leader, Schaeffer. Riedel Networks designed and built the communication network and Cisco was chosen to provide the technology in this collaboration.

 

At this speed, 20 milliseconds of latency in the connection translates to a meter traveled. The round-trip time between the simulator driver in Graz and the car on the Red Bull Ring track is only 2ms for the WAN and about 5ms for the radio network. That’s very close to the speed of light.

Minimizing impact on the environment

Any fan of motor racing knows that the teams are constantly in search of the next innovation that will provide the improvement they need to step onto the winner’s podium at the end of the race. Racing has also always served as an innovation lab – and so does DTM. The Remote Run in Spielberg shows elements of remote-controlled driving. This allows us to achieve both our racing goals while at the same time being mindful of costs and the environment. The constant testing of race cars can contribute to increased emissions. We are demonstrating the improvement in sustainability for “race testing” by reducing the carbon footprint required to conduct testing through the move to fully electric vehicles and reducing some of the required transport and travel for materials and testing staff to the racetrack.

Sustainability is important to the future of racing and is also a core value of Cisco. Cisco looks for opportunities to minimize impact on the environment in every corner of our business and supply chain.  Cisco pursues ways technology can reduce energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The Future of Connectivity

With a full-sized remotely connected and controlled race car blazing around a track, safety would naturally be a concern. It’s never been attempted and to have a responsive and secure connection was essential.

The Riedel Group is a family of technology providers for broadcast sports and live event production. As experts in networking and communications solutions and the mission-critical transmission of audio, video and data signals, Riedel is known to deliver customized systems for pioneering projects like this.

“We’re pushing the limits. Controlling a racecar at this speed from 82km away has never been attempted. Partnering with Cisco for a secure and responsive connection was essential.” Michael Martens, CEO, Riedel Networks.

Riedel Networks is a privately held, global network services provider, focused on tailormade networks. It is listed in the Gartner Magic Quadrant 2021 for Network Services, Global, as niche provider specialized in mid-sized internationals and the media and events sector. They designed and implemented the communications architecture to control the race car using Cisco Software-defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN), and Catalyst 8300 Edge platform for the primary connection with a direct fiber over MPLS link.  MPLS is fast and extremely reliable. For this reason, some Cisco customers choose to run select applications in their Cisco SD-WAN architecture over MPLS.

The Cisco Catalyst 8300 Series Edge Platforms, with a multicore architecture and powerful hardware-accelerated encryption capabilities provide a secure, high-performance, and reliable connection. Cisco Catalyst 8300 provides reliable data transmission with carrier grade (99,999%) availability that is required between the car and the remote driving simulator.

Running a car that has over 1000 fully electrified horsepower with no one on board, you still need a backup plan in the rare event the MPLS link goes down. With the exceptional speed of 5G, the architecture was designed to include a redundant backup connection using Cisco’s Catalyst Cellular Gateways. In this case, 5G over SD-WAN will become the primary transport with multigigabit connectivity at up to 3.3Gbps.

The Riedel network not only supports the remote steering link, but also enables video feeds from the car to the driver and from the driver to the pitman at the racetrack. The network also provides intercom communications.

Cisco is delivering SD-WAN technology that provides the flexibility to leverage any combination of transport services to securely connect users to data and applications in any location with an optimized experience.

The impact of the partnership

Every partner in this project delivered a critical element for its success, bringing the highest levels of technology together. For Cisco, this initiative helps demonstrate the future of connectivity. Remotely controlling a driverless car demonstrates:

  1. Reduce Costs of testing by minimizing the material and person power trackside, as well as reduced travel and transport costs.
  2. Improves sustainability for “race testing” by reducing the carbon footprint required to conduct tests.

 

From racing innovation to your business, there’s a bridge. The technologies to accomplish this incredible feat are available from Cisco today.

Although I would be very excited to pilot this car around the track myself, remembering back to how the legs of the furniture in my parent’s living room looked, I think it best DTM Racing leave that to the expert driver.

Read the DTM Press Release in the Cisco Newsroom.

Read more about Cisco SD-WAN, Catalyst 8000 Edge Platforms and Catalyst Cellular Gateways.

Watch a Q&A video discussion led by Cisco’s JL Valente with all the partners discussing why this is important.

 

Check out our Intent-Based Networking video channel.

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