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Optimising a world-class ready-to-drive vehicle

- Idea -

Formula Student is an international design competition for students in which teams from around the world construct a single-seated formula vehicle and produce a ready-to-drive prototype in which they compete against each other. 

The University of Stuttgart's combustion team, Rennteam Stuttgart, currently holds the 1st place world ranking in the competition. They are most keen to defend their title again. Bora Özgen, a member of Rennteam’s electronic team, is in charge of developing the driver display system and telemetry. 

“During testing and competition, it is vital for the vehicle to display the important vehicle data to the driver to improve performance and prevent damage to the prototype,” says Özgen.  

The dashboard needs to display sensor data such as oil pressure, water temperature, as well as driving modes and engine maps. These metrics are closely monitored and offer insights into how efficiently the vehicle is operating and how the performance can be improved. 

Solution Design

Özgen chose 4D System’s gen4-4DCAPE-50CT-SB as their LCD display unit, offering Capacitive Touch,  5.0" LCD TFT display. The primary reason for this choice was because it works perfectly with their main display control unit, the BeagleBone Black. 

For the last two years of competing, Rennteam used the gen4-uLCD-50D-SB and this year have decided to leverage the graphics accelerator of the BeagleBone Black by moving to the  gen4-4DCAPE-50CT-SB.

Image: RennTeam Uni Stuttgart's driver in action.

A major benefit of upgrading the display unit was simplifying the programming – the developers only needed to write the program in one application, which implemented the UI and the application logic simultaneously.

This increase in flexibility for the developers also resulted in a faster, more responsive display for the driver. Removing the need for an additional communication layer between the Beaglebone & the display controller meant the team could improve the driver’s user experience.

“I developed the software on BeagleBone after receiving the display, having ordered it directly from 4D Systems website. During development, we simulated the vehicle data using hardware-in-the-loop simulation. When we were satisfied, we designed and manufactured a waterproof casing for the display and assembled it onto the vehicle” Özgen says. 

All display controls were operated using buttons on the steering wheel, with the display positioned in front of the steering wheel for easy glancing at.

Outcome

The driver’s feedback on the new display couldn’t have been better. It was more responsive with a clearer graphic display than the 2 previous years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgyBYtGTjHU

Image: The gen4-4DCAPE-50CT-SB as the vehicle's display unit. 

The goal at Rennteam Stuttgart is clear: complete the development, finish with class, win gloriously. The display will help the team test the car more efficiently, particularly around measuring crucial metrics that determine how the vehicle meets its optimal performance level.

Ultimately the team are looking to defend their 1st place world ranking by achieving glory in competition with the right tools, software and partners beside them.

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