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Bloodhound SSC makes first public run at 338km/h

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The Bloodhound Supersonic Car recently reached a milestone when it reached speeds of up to 338km/h on a 2.7km long runway accelerating a rate of 1.5G, reaching 322km/h from a standing start in just 8 seconds.

The Bloodhound Supersonic Car (Bloodhound  SSC), which aims to break the current world land speed record and reach 1600km/h, has reached a major milestone. Last week it successfully completed its first test runs at Cornwall Airport Newquay in the UK.

Bloodhound  SSC, driven by current record holder Wing Commander Andy Green, reached speeds of up to 338km/h on the 2.7km long runway. It accelerated at a rate of 1.5G, reaching 322km/h from a standing start in just 8 seconds.

The event marked the culmination of a month of tests and was the first opportunity to prove the car’s steering, brakes, suspension, data systems and the EJ200 jet engine before the team head to the Hakskeen Pan in South Africa with an iniital target of reaching 1 287 km/h. The team will then go back to the UK to review the data before returning to South Africa with the aim of reaching 1 609 km/h. It would thus be the first land vehicle to reach 1000 miles per hour.

Global database software leader Oracle has provided the technology platform for feeding data from the Bloodhound to an international audience.

Castrol, the chosen oil of the Bloodhound project and a partner since 2014, points out it has a notable heritage in Land Speed Racing, “the original, purest and fastest form of automotive competition”. The world land speed record has been broken 21 times with Castrol as a partner, from Kenelm Lee Guinness’s first record attempt in 1922 at 215km/h to the current record of 1 228km/h, set by Andy Green in Thrust SSC on 15 October 1997.

Bloodhound SSC is powered by an incredible 100 669kW, which is more than six times the total power output of the entire field of starters in Formula One. To achieve this immense power output and the target speed, the project team led by Richard Noble is placing its trust in a jet engine, rocket propulsion and a variety of high-performance lubricants from Castrol. These include their strongest engine oil Castrol Edge Supercar.

“It was great to finally see the car in action today,” said Richard Noble, Bloodhound project director. Bloodhound” SSC is a unique, high-technology project and it is fantastic that we can rely on Castrol’s pioneering technology for all the car’s lubricants. When it comes to the record attempts, we’ve got to get the highest power to weight ratio as we possibly can. We’ve got to get the car as light as we can and yet maintain its strength and Castrol will certainly contribute with their terrific history of record-breaking.”

A.S. Ramchander, VP Marketing, Castrol said, “This partnership gives us the chance to showcase how our high-performance products push the boundaries of performance and we have our sights firmly set on partnering on a 22nd World Land Speed Record.”

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Project Bloodhound saved

The British project to break the world landspeed record at a site in the Northern Cape has been saved by a new backer, after it went into bankruptcy proceedings in October.

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Two weeks ago,  and two months after entering voluntary administration, the Bloodhound Programme Limited announced it was shutting down. This week it announced that its assets, including the Bloodhound Supersonic Car (SSC), had been acquired by an enthusiastic – and wealthy – supporter.

“We are absolutely delighted that on Monday 17th December, the business and assets were bought, allowing the Project to continue,” the team said in a statement.

“The acquisition was made by Yorkshire-based entrepreneur Ian Warhurst. Ian is a mechanical engineer by training, with a strong background in managing a highly successful business in the automotive engineering sector, so he will bring a lot of expertise to the Project.”

Warhurst and his family, says the team, have been enthusiastic Bloodhound supporters for many years, and this inspired his new involvement with the Project.

“I am delighted to have been able to safeguard the business and assets preventing the project breakup,” he said. “I know how important it is to inspire young people about science, technology, engineering and maths, and I want to ensure Bloodhound can continue doing that into the future.

“It’s clear how much this unique British project means to people and I have been overwhelmed by the messages of thanks I have received in the last few days.”

The record attempt was due to be made late next year at Hakskeen Pan in the Kalahari Desert, where retired pilot Andy Green planned to beat the 1228km/h land-speed record he set in the United States in 1997. The target is for Bloodhound to become the first car to reach 1000mph (1610km/h). A track 19km long and 500 metres wide has been prepared, with members of the local community hired to clear 16 000 tons of rock and stone to smooth the surface.

The team said in its announcement this week: “Although it has been a frustrating few months for Bloodhound, we are thrilled that Ian has saved Bloodhound SSC from closure for the country and the many supporters around the world who have been inspired by the Project. We now have a lot of planning to do for 2019 and beyond.”

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Motor Racing meets Machine Learning

The futuristic car technology of tomorrow is being built today in both racing cars and
toys, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The car of tomorrow, most of us imagine, is being built by the great automobile manufacturers of the world. More and more, however, we are seeing information technology companies joining the race to power the autonomous vehicle future.

Last year, chip-maker Intel paid $15.3-billion to acquire Israeli company Mobileye, a leader in computer vision for autonomous driving technology. Google’s autonomous taxi division, Waymo, has been valued at $45-billion.

Now there’s a new name to add to the roster of technology giants driving the future.

DeepRacer on the inside

Amazon Web Services, the world’s biggest cloud computing service and a subsidiary of Amazon.com,  last month unveiled a scale model autonomous racing car for developers to build new artificial intelligence applications. Almost in the same breath, at its annual re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, it showcased the work being done with machine learning in Formula 1 racing.

AWS DeepRacer is a 1/18th scale fully autonomous race car, designed to incorporate the features and behaviour of a full-sized vehicle. It boasts all-wheel drive, monster truck tires, an HD video camera, and on-board computing power. In short, everything a kid would want of a self-driving toy car.

But then, it also adds everything a developer would need to make the car autonomous in ways that, for now, can only be imagined. It uses a new form of machine learning (ML), the technology that allows computer systems to improve their functions progressively as they receive feedback from their activities. ML is at the heart of artificial intelligence (AI), and will be core to autonomous, self-driving vehicles.

AWS has taken ML a step further, with an approach called reinforcement learning. This allows for quicker development of ML models and applications, and DeepRacer is designed to allow developers to experiment with and hone their skill in this area. It is built on top of another AWS platform, called Amazon SageMaker, which enables developers and data scientists to build, train, and deploy machine learning quickly and easily.

Along with DeepRacer, AWS also announced the DeepRacer League, the world’s first global autonomous racing league, open to anyone who orders the scale model from AWS.

DeepRacer on the outside

As if to prove that DeepRacer is not just a quirky entry into the world of motor racing, AWS also showcased the work it is doing with the Formula One Group. Ross Brawn, Formula 1’s managing director of Motor Sports, joined AWS CEO Andy Jassy during the keynote address at the re:Invent conference, to demonstrate how motor racing meets machine learning.

“More than a million data points a second are transmitted between car and team during a Formula 1 race,” he said. “From this data, we can make predictions about what we expect to happen in a wheel-to-wheel situation, overtaking advantage, and pit stop advantage. ML can help us apply a proper analysis of a situation, and also bring it to fans.

“Formula 1 is a complete team contest. If you look at a video of tyre-changing in a pit stop – it takes 1.6 seconds to change four wheels and tyres – blink and you will miss it. Imagine the training that goes into it? It’s also a contest of innovative minds.”

AWS CEO Andy Jassy unveils DeepRacer

Formula 1 racing has more than 500 million global fans and generated $1.8 billion in revenue in 2017. As a result, there are massive demands on performance, analysis and information. 

During a race, up to 120 sensors on each car generate up to 3GB of data and 1 500 data points – every second. It is impossible to analyse this data on the fly without an ML platform like Amazon SageMaker. It has a further advantage: the data scientists are able to incorporate 65 years of historical race data to compare performance, make predictions, and provide insights into the teams’ and drivers’ split-second decisions and strategies.

This means Formula 1 can pinpoint how a driver is performing and whether or not drivers have pushed themselves over the limit.

“By leveraging Amazon SageMaker and AWS’s machine-learning services, we are able to deliver these powerful insights and predictions to fans in real time,” said Pete Samara, director of innovation and digital technology at Formula 1.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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