The 21km Nordschleife version of the circuit is where the experiments are taking place.
“In contrast to the Grand Prix circuit, the Nordschleife has not yet been equipped with cameras and is therefore out of sight from race control,” according to Fujitsu. “This meant it was often difficult to assess and react to issues quickly. 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 race control and make decisions.”
The plan calls for 100 HD cameras to cover the whole 21km, which has 73 turns as well as dips and hills. Several hundred vehicles can be on the track simultaneously.
“The sheer number of cameras means the circuit cannot easily be monitored reliably by humans,” said Fujitsu, which is “developing an artificial intelligence system 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 race control and switches to the relevant video feeds while simultaneously giving the opportunity to notify approaching traffic, for example by using trackside LED displays.”
Eight cameras along a 2.8km stretch of Nordschleife called Doettinger Hoehe is stage 1 of the digitalisation project – the software is modular so that more sections of track can be added. Optical fibre links to the cameras, and local (non-cloud) processing are used to minimise system latency.
The software incorporates object recognition to identify vehicles or people on the track, and image segmentation to discriminate between the track, gravel, grass, guardrails and safety fences (see image above). It is being trained to detect oil, dirt, debris or other track anomalies, and to cope with weather conditions such as rain or shadows.
“This project certainly presented some challenges, including the need for continuous power and bandwidth in the middle of the Eifel mountains,” said Fujitsu European head of automotive Joern Nitschmann. “However, the Nuerburgring’s race safety expertise, combined with our experience specifying, developing and installing complex AI solutions, has proven to be the perfect team.”
The first live test of the track infrastructure was at a 24 hour endurance in June. “Now we are collecting data from the test sector, and continuing to develop the solution based on these insights,” said Nuerburgring MD Mirco Markfort.