In the future, the Nuerburgring circuit could benefit from advanced artificial intelligence-supported safety features thanks to Fujitsu.
A complex deployment of HD cameras, real-time AI analysis and instant alert systems mean that both RaceControl and drivers can be immediately notified of incidents on this challenging racetrack section – nicknamed the “green hell” by Formula One driver Sir Jackie Stewart.
The iconic Nordschleife (North Loop) is the most famous of the Nuerburgring’s two racetracks. The 20.8-kilometer track features a total of 73 turns, including blind corners, drops and significant elevation changes – and is consequently considered by many to be one of the most challenging in the world.
Historically, in the event of an incident, such as a vehicle leaving the track, race marshals relied on radio and communication with the marshals on the track to relay the information back to RaceControl and make decisions.
In contrast to the Grand Prix circuit, the Nordschleife has not yet been equipped with cameras and is therefore out of sight from RaceControl. This meant it was often difficult to assess and react to issues quickly – and with up to several hundred vehicles simultaneously on the track, the stakes are high in making the right call.
The staged rollout plan for this ambitious track digitalisation project has started with a 2.8km test section known as the “Doettinger Hoehe” with the installation of eight HD cameras by the Nuerburgring. In addition to the existing camera infrastructure on the Grand Prix circuit, coverage of the entire Nordschleife will require more than 100 cameras.
However, the sheer number of cameras means the circuit cannot easily be monitored reliably by humans. The Fujitsu solution is based on cameras installed by the Nuerburgring, connected to RaceControl via fibre optic cables.
To support the decision-making process, Fujitsu is developing an artificial intelligence system that leverages AI to monitor all the video feeds in real time, and flag any potential dangers it identifies.
When potential issues are spotted, the system instantly notifies RaceControl and switches to the relevant video feeds while simultaneously giving the opportunity to notify approaching traffic, for example by using trackside LED displays.
Joern Nitschmann, head of manufacturing and automotive: Central Europe at Fujitsu, comments: “The Nuerburgring has a well-earned reputation for being difficult to navigate, leading to the saying ‘Everyone praises what the Nuerburgring tests’. This project certainly presented some challenges – including the need for continuous power and bandwidth in the middle of the Eifel mountains.
“However, the Nuerburgring’s race safety expertise, combined with our experience specifying, developing and installing complex AI solutions, has proven to be the perfect co-creation team. Our collaboration transforms the safety of this notoriously difficult racetrack, by leveraging digital transformation expertise proven in other industries.”
Mirco Markfort, Nuerburgring MD, says: “Racing events have been held at the Nuerburgring Nordschleife for almost one hundred years, and we’ve invested heavily over the years to maximize the safety of thousands of drivers who test their abilities here every year.
“Thanks to our cooperation with Fujitsu, drivers will be safer than ever. Not only do we have visibility over portions of the track for the first time, but artificial intelligence can also generate automated notifications in real-time.
“The first live test of the track infrastructure was at the legendary 24-hour endurance race held at the beginning of June. Now we are collecting data from the test sector, and continuing to develop the solution based on these insights. We are also planning to develop and roll out this revolutionary technology to the rest of the track.”
Fujitsu continues to develop the AI system – teaching it to recognize vehicles, and identify the different parts of the track and immediate surroundings including gravel, grass and guardrails. The AI is also being trained to detect anomalies on the track, such oil, dirt or debris, and to cope with weather conditions such as rain or shadows.