BMW head-up display press conference

Participants: Ralf Schumacher, BMW.WilliamsF1 Team Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Juergen Bruegl, BMW Technology Office Richard Pelletier, DesignworksUSA Mike Presz, Kopin Corp. ROY OLIEMULLER, BMW of North America, LLC, Corporate ...

Participants:
Ralf Schumacher, BMW.WilliamsF1 Team
Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport
Juergen Bruegl, BMW Technology Office
Richard Pelletier, DesignworksUSA
Mike Presz, Kopin Corp.

ROY OLIEMULLER, BMW of North America, LLC, Corporate Communications, introduced the participants.

JUERGEN BRUEGL: "For such a project certainly not one individual can do this alone. We have assembled very unique partners, and I must say the best of the crop, to do this. Let me take you through the partners real quickly... Let's start with Designworks. DesignworksUSA is 100 percent a BMW daughter, located close to Los Angeles and they were responsible for the mechanical design as well as for the information design that goes into this display. The next partner is Kopin Corporation. Kopin is known for their dime-size ultra-high-resolution, ultra-bright, and ultra-light active matrix liquid crystal displays. That's a long word. These displays are not only usable for a helmet, they can be used in any thinkable application. Then the next partner was certainly BMW Williams F1. They gave us a pretty interesting set of requirements and we had to work quite hard to fulfill these requirements. Their testing, I must say, was the toughest test we ever went through. Then we had also the helmet manufacturer itself. Schuberth Helmet is a German manufacturer, which is about 80 years already in the helmet business. And they are our manufacturing and development partner for motorcycle and racing helmets. And, last but not least, the BMW Technology Office. This is the organization where I come from. We're located in the Silicon Valley and we are constantly hunting for new, exciting technology. And we try to adapt these technologies for the automotive area. We are doing this in such a way (that) we can reduce significantly the time to market for consumer products for new things.

"Enough with the introduction of the partners. Let's go to the helmet directly. The requirement that we had was to integrate a head-up display in the Formula 1 car, which is clearly readable under all driving conditions, (and) rugged to withstand all Formula 1 typical vibrations and g-forces. It should take almost no weight and almost no packaging space. And, on top of all, it should be totally safe. So, our solution on that was a helmet-mounted display. It consists of an imaging module, which is located in the peripheral vision area of the driver and some electronics on the side. We put them very close to the display to eliminate any noise and any electrostatic problems here.

"What does this system give us? This is a new method of informing the driver about possible hazards on the road, about possible vehicle status, and certainly also flag status. There are many, many more uses possible, but this is then definitely up to the team what to do with it.

"What are the advantages versus the currently-used display in the steering wheel? It is full-color, it's much larger and it doesn't constantly flip when the driver is making turns. But there is a much bigger advantage. We tried to illustrate this on this slide here. On the top slide you see the driver's eyes focused on the steering wheel reading the information that is there, and everything on the horizon is out of focus. On the lower image you see that the focus is set on infinity but also the information you have in this extra display is also in focus. That is the big advantage of this system. If you look at studies made in (University of) Berkeley (Calif.), they have even found out the timing between reading normal instruments in a vehicle, between looking at the instruments and looking back on the traffic, is about two seconds, whereas a head-up display in this configuration takes only 0.5 seconds. If you calculate this in the speed a Formula 1 car makes in two seconds you are traveling the distance of about two football fields. And with 0.1 seconds it's only 44 meters, half of a football field. Then the placement of the information. The information was placed in the peripheral vision so not to obstruct the driver's view and also not to be in his way while driving. And the driver will see information coming up on the display, and if there are critical situations for any hard fights on the track he can pick up this information when it's safe. He doesn't have to, and that's the difference to the audible system on the intercom; he doesn't have to hear and comprehend it at the same time whatever condition is on the track.

"The system is difficult to describe the appearance and illustrate also a virtual system. It is a monolithic design and it appears an image in about a six-inch diagonal in about arm's length. This is about double the size of a normal steering-wheel display. It is very bright and it also withstands the most severe tests. We had it on a 300g short-impulse test and we were pretty surprised that the thing worked afterwards. We were just looking (to see) that it was not disintegrating but it still worked. The whole system is certainly fine tuned for Ralf Schumacher and yet what you see here is his actual head scan in CAD and we designed the helmet exactly around his head. Designworks made the complete interior design and also with doing this in CAD it was possible to do full simulation on safety, crash and impact tests on CAD right away.

"The next step... Certainly Dr. Theissen can tell you more about it. We would like to race this system next year. Thank you very much. Let's start the engine."

OLIEMULLER: "We have had quite a bit of a technical description here on the helmet. Let me present a question to Ralf. Ralf, how does this apply in actual use in the car. What has your experience been?"

SCHUMACHER: "Since we only started...I've only had it once in the car with use and only with examples. As he (Bruegl) described it, we don't need to focus on it, we get the information without being distracted at all. It's very good use to me. In fact, even in a situation where you would go around a very quick turn but you can't see the end of it and something would happen on the other end it would be very good information or like the oil information, even (all) the information you can get. We only started with it yet, so if it's very difficult to know really now what we will do with it, but it's a big achievement."

RALF, IT DOESN'T INTRUDE INTO YOUR VISION AT ALL?

SCHUMACHER: "No. It's designed for that purpose, to not be realized in the normal drive; it's just if something turns up you see it straightaway, but without really stressing you."

HOW MUCH ADJUSTMENT DID YOU HAVE TO MAKE BEFORE YOU WERE COMFORTABLE WITH HOW MUCH OF YOUR VISION IT TAKES?

SCHUMACHER: "I must say that... it all started off with the actual helmet manufacturer, not (to) be unfair to someone here. They at the time came to me and they took a scan of my head and because of that already pretty much knew what had to be from the experience and I just had to change the angle itself a bit, but it was never in my way because of the way they used the technology already."

IS IT INTENDED TO BE USED FOR REAL-TIME CONTINUOUS INFORMATION OR JUST FOR SPOT UPDATES?

SCHUMACHER: "Whatever is possible with it. Certainly (the technology) is there to replace the normal steering monitor, to have more space for buttons and to even be able to send better information. At the moment, as you see, it's a very simple monitor that we have and that's far better."

WHO DETERMINES WHAT INFORMATION COMES TO YOU? IS THAT SET AT THE PIT?

SCHUMACHER: "It's part of what I ask for and certainly with the pit things that I need to know. But it hasn't been figured out yet."

THEISSEN: "In effect you could imagine even to put other information on it which doesn't come from the team, but by race control, for instance. If this is a common feature you could remove flagpoles, pit wall boards and things like this."

SCHUMACHER: "You could send the football results."

WITH VIDEO APPLICATION OPPOSED TO AUDIO, IS IT EASIER TO UTILIZE A VIDEO SIGNAL WHILE YOU'RE DRIVING RATHER THAN GETTING AN AUDIO INPUT?

SCHUMACHER: "It's less distracting, although a driver should be able to communicate during a lap theoretically, but practically it would always distract you more than it should. And certainly if information is given (it) would straight come to me, but even if I'm in the braking zone or just through a corner which my engineer's not able to see at the time it's definitely the better way of communication."

IS IT A CONSTANT DISPLAY OR IS IT CLEAR AT TIMES?

SCHUMACHER: "It's clear. It's only there when it's needed. At the moment there's no need for it to be constant. It depends on what we do with the whole layout of the steering wheel for the future and however the system works."

IS IT JUST MY EYES? ON THE BOTTOM (SLIDE) IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE THAT YOU'RE ABLE TO SEE THE IMAGE TALKING ABOUT OIL ON THE TRACK AND LOOK OFF AND BE IN FOCUS TOWARD THE TRACK RATHER THAN THE STEERING WHEEL. BUT WHEN I LOOK AT IT I HAVE TO EITHER FOCUS ON THE SIIGNAL FROM THE HEAD-UP DISPLAY OR THE END OF THE TRACK.

SCHUMACHER: "That's because it's designed for me and not for you. It works."

IS IT THAT SPECIFIC TO BE DESIGNED FOR YOUR OPTICS?

SCHUMACHER: "Certainly it's in different scale on there now than it is on the actual helmet. That's the way it's supposed to be."

OLIEMULLER: "As Juergen mentioned, too, it's in the peripheral vision for the driver, and we actually have a mockup over here. You'll see the helmet cut in half. You can take a look at this in a moment if you'd like to after the presentation is over."

IS THE PLAN THAT RALF WILL ONLY USE IT THIS SEASON OR WILL JUAN PABLO MONTOYA AND OTHER DRIVERS HAVE IT DURING THE YEAR?

SCHUMACHER: "No, it's not allowed. It's only for me (laughing)."

THEISSEN: "If I may correct...Certainly it's a development which has been done with Ralf and with Ralf's helmet manufacturer, Schuberth, who, as was said before, is our partner in motorcycle helmets as well. But of course if it proves useful and as it proves useful it would be good to have it in the team for both drivers."

IS IT PROPOSED THAT YOU WILL USE IT NEXT YEAR OR WILL YOU DEFINITELY USE IT AT THE START OF NEXT SEASON?

THEISSEN: "We are currently in the evaluation process and release process by the FIA and the Snell Corporation and if the helmet passes all the tests successfully we want to race it next year."

ARE THERE SITUATIONS WHERE IT WOULD MAKE YOU MORE COMPETITIVE?

SCHUMACHER: "It's simply that you can be more consistent in a car, and that will make you more competitive eventually. For qualifying it won't make a big difference, but in the race it can."

THIS IS FOR COMMUNICATIONS PURPOSES PRETTY MUCH. HAVE YOU THOUGHT FURTHER HOW IT MIGHT HELP YOUR VISION IN SOME WAY THAT YOU COULD SEE THINGS THAT OTHER DRIVERS COULDN'T SEE?

SCHUMACHER: "For future maybe you can have a 'back' camera so that you don't need to look into mirrors, or radar or whatever. You can have all sorts of information, but it's (in the) very early days right now to speak of it now."

HAS THERE BEEN ANY FEED FROM THE AERONAUTICAL INDUSTRY?

BRUEGL: "Certainly we looked at how other industries do it. If you compare it with fighter pilots, this system is a dwarf against the systems they're using. Fighter pilots have to control all kinds of devices with this HMD, we don't."

ON THE ACTUAL APPLICATION, WHEN THEY INDICATE THE SIGNAL ON THE VIDEO, IF YOU ARE IN A CIRCUMSTANCE WHERE YOU CANNOT SEE THE SIGNAL BECAUSE YOU HAVE YOUR EYES ON WHERE YOU'RE GOING AT THAT MOMENT, DOES IT REMAIN ON OR DOES IT CLICK OFF ONCE YOU GO BEYOND THE CONDITION THAT IT'S WARNING YOU ON?"

SCHUMACHER: "It definitely can remain on as long as it makes sense. If I've been by the obstacle or whatever, by the time I realize it certainly the team will cancel it. It's down to how we set it up. If we say OK there's a message and I have to push a button at some time to erase it or will be gone after 10 seconds, it's what we don't know yet."

WILL THIS REPLACE SOME INSTRUMENTS OR READOUT ON THE DASH OR NOT? WILL ANY OF THAT HAPPEN IN THE FIRST YEAR?"

SCHUMACHER: "It's supposed to, if it works well. Which we expect it might do so."

THEISSEN: "Virtually you can put any data on it; everything you have today and much more. It's rather a question of not to getting information overflow than to be not able to not put anything on it."

HOW MUCH DID IT COST?

THEISSEN: "I can say for Formula 1 and with the numbers we need it's absolutely not an issue. Of course, it's a prototype device. It's done individually and you wouldn't sell it on a large scale; not yet. But as a display in Formula 1 the cost doesn't really matter. For the device itself we would certainly not talk about $1000. It's less."

IS THERE INTENTION TO HAVE ROAD APPLICATION TO THIS?

THEISSEN: "It could come, yes, but we want to start here in Formula 1. If we prove successful, of course, we are looking at creating synergies between motorsport and road cars and motorcycles, whatever."

WHY ISN'T JUAN PABLO MONTOYA USING IT?

THEISSEN: "Because it's still in the development stage. We have the first prototype here and as soon as we have some successful tests we will talk to Juan Pablo, of course."

IN THE EVENT FIA APPROVES IT AND IT IS ACCEPTED FOR RACING, DO YOU SEE AN APPLICATION THROUGH ALL THE TEAMS IN F1 OR WILL IT BE EXCLUSIVE TO BMW?

THEISSEN: "It is an exclusive design and as we see it as an information device we would like to have it exclusively because apparently it provides us with a competitive advantage. I don't see at the moment that this very specific design would be available for other teams."

IS THERE A FACILITY FOR SCROLLING THROUGH DATA?

BRUEGL: "The system is certainly integrated in the button system in the vehicle. If wished we can make a button on the steering wheel to scroll."

-bmw-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Ralf Schumacher , Mario Theissen
Teams Williams