Timing systems

Combining image processing techniques to design a new way to measure pit stop duration

Formula one, Pitstops, Sport

Formula One drivers perform incredibly precise maneuvers at high speeds, and racing fans expect a similar level of precision from race timing.

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Goal

Fast pit stops are a key part of F1 competition; a successful visit to pit row can help drivers gain an edge, while a slow pit stop makes the path to victory that much more challenging. Given their strategic importance, F1 leadership wanted to be able to time pit stops more accurately. The solutions in place relied on wheel speeds and proximity sensors that are fraught with complications and accurate to only about 0.2 seconds. Its goal was to design a new timing system that could measure pit stop duration to within 0.002 seconds—essentially in real time.

Insight and Action

QuantumBlack recognised that traditional timing techniques wouldn’t be sufficient to achieve the target improvements. Our team worked to devise a new way to measure pit stop times using image-processing techniques. The solution: a nonlinear combination of a contour-detection algorithm and an optical-flow method that easily outperforms the existing telemetry-based methods. To support the implementation of this method, we provided a camera and set-up specification so that the client could continue to get results.

Results

  • <1Millisecondaccuracy target for image processing phase