Formula One has long been seen as a proving ground for technology that eventually filters through to production vehicles.
However, in an unconventional twist on the idea of technology transfer, software technology used by Jaguar road car designers has now been embraced by the F1 design team.
The software in question is JACK, a package originally developed by Iowa-based Engineering Animation and now commercially licensed by EDS. In use, it allows designers to examine how ‘synthetic human models’ interact with their environment.
It has already been employed for some time and to great ergonomic effect on Jaguar’s road cars. And now, virtual reality mannequins of F1 drivers Mark Webber and Antonio Pizzonia are helping the racing side of the business to tweak the design of next season’s car for the first time.
The JACK software, as it used on road cars, averages the profile of a number of drivers, generates a virtual reality mannequin and places it inside a virtual model of a car. Based on the results of the simulation, designers can then optimise the ergonomics of the inside of the car.
Instead of using the software to create a human model based on the average dimensions of a cross-section of users, the racing team are using the exact dimensions of Webber and Pizzonia. These will then be used by Jaguar’s designers to evaluate whether the seat, steering wheel, armrest and gears are situated in the best location.
Making an F1 cockpit an ergonomically friendly place is a big challenge.
‘It’s not a comfortable place to sit, it’s extremely tight, extremely cramped and a complicated environment in terms of everything that you need to address when you’re travelling at 190mph,’ said Jaguar spokesman Nav Sidhu.
Illustrating one potential use of the system, Sidhu referred to instances this season where a launch control mechanism caught drivers out at the start of a Grand Prix. He said that, on a number of occasions, drivers failed to engage the control properly, and that this was due to the position of the buttons and the order in which they should be pressed.
Jaguar Racing is confident that by using JACK, they can rid the cockpit of such problems, and fine-tune the environment so that the driver’s mind concentrates more on the track than the controls. The net effect of this, said Sidhu, will be a quicker lap time.