Multi-Gigabit WiFi tested in car racing

February 27, 2017 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Qualcomm Technologies and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport are conducting field trials to test high-speed wireless download of vehicle sensor information utilizing 802.11ad Wi-Fi technology in the 60 GHz band. 

With the success of initial testing conducted during the Formula 1 US Grand Prix in the 2016 season, Qualcomm Technologies and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport plan to continue technology development and conduct additional trials during the British Grand Prix in July.  During these field trials, race engineers utilize both 5 GHz 802.11ac and Multi-gigabit 802.11ad Wi-Fi technology, which operates in the millimeter wave 60GHz band, to gather data directly from the team’s racecar while in, or approaching the garage. The handover between the two 802.11 modes are handled automatically as radio conditions dictate throughput performance.

The goal of the trial is to accelerate how quickly and efficiently data can be pulled from the vehicle, as well as help evaluate vehicle performance under extreme race conditions, helping with quicker assessments and less time in the pit lane.  Utilizing motorsport as a test bed, the trial can also be utilized to assist in further developing technologies and applications that can be potentially used for safer road vehicles, as well as the pursuit of the wireless garage.

“It has already been a rewarding journey to work with Qualcomm Technologies to develop technology that helps the team improve performance on track and could ultimately have a big impact on people’s lives,” said Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport. “Following a field trial in Austin last year, the target is to have the 802.11ad Wi-Fi technology running on-car during Friday practice from the 2017 US Grand Prix onwards.” From Qualcomm’s perspective, the 802.11ad multi-gigabit WiFi is regarded as a development path towards 5G technology.

The introduction of 802.11ad Wi-Fi technology to transfer vehicle sensor information builds on the concept of downloading racecar telemetry data via Wi-Fi using the 5 GHz spectrum announced by both companies last year, where tire data was pulled wirelessly utilizing thermal cameras.