The difference between winning and losing in Formula E can often be measured in milliseconds, but for Envision Virgin Racing that decision is no longer left solely to the driver…
Studies estimate that adults make around 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each and every day. Some big, some small. Some significant, some trivia. Some good, some bad. For professional sports athletes, those split-second decisions can be the difference between a lot more… winning and losing.
And in some sports, that split decision can be over in the blink of an eye, literally. Take baseball for instance, a 100mph fastball takes roughly 375 – 400 milliseconds seconds to reach the batter. Blinking takes around 300 – 400 milliseconds. Not long then to decide what stroke to play and then to (successfully) execute it.
It’s the same in motorsport. The average time for a driver to react to the start lights is around 200 milliseconds; half the time it takes to blink to get that essential good start and then prepare for the next all important decision… followed by the next.
As in any motorsport series, the final decision ultimately rests with the man or woman behind the wheel but for Envision Virgin Racing drivers Sam Bird and Robin Frijns, they are far from alone when it comes to making many of these.
For almost two seasons now, Envision Virgin Racing has been successfully collaborating with Genpact to connect the data from our cars, drivers, team and tracks to help enhance decision-making and therefore race performance.
How, we hear you say? Well, take Formula E’s race length as an example. From the start of season five, races have no longer been a fixed number of laps, instead set to 45 minutes plus one lap. This means even greater energy management is required as every overtake, defensive manoeuvre, safety car or weather change can affect whether Sam Bird and Robin Frijns need to push or save remaining energy.
To better predict how many laps there will be in each race and efficiently manage energy, Genpact worked with the team to develop the Lap Estimate Optimizer (LEO), an AI-based scenario engine that houses a variety of different algorithms.
LEO runs alongside Envision Virgin Racing’s existing systems to assess thousands of potential scenarios and understand the impact of everything to an overtake to a sudden hailstorm, leading to a better understanding of how many laps remain.
LEO’s insights are particularly helpful when faced with changing track conditions, as was the case in Paris (where a certain Mr Frijns went on to take his maiden Formula E victory we might add) and Hong Kong, where LEO offered benefits over classic analysis methods. Similarly, in Santiago, LEO was able to settle on the right number 15 laps earlier. In short, it is about leaving as little as possible to chance.
And now this collaboration has been recognised with a coveted Hackett Group Digital Award. Hosted annually, the awards – set up by the leading strategic consultancy – aim to spotlight companies that are on the cutting edge of digital business practice, with Genpact taking top spot in the Analytics Category through their work with the team.
And of course, that work is constantly being fined tuned and even applied to wider business applications, all trying to amplify the partnership between human instinct and machine learning…after all, who wouldn’t want some help making 35,000 decisions a day?