(Image source: McLaren Applied Technologies)

McLaren Applied Technologies’ all-electric, AI-infused vision of Formula 1 racing

McLaren Applied Technologies of Woking, United Kingdom unveiled their “MCLExtreme” (MCLE) vision for the future of grand prix racing. While McLaren Applied Technologies believes that the 2050 Formula 1 World Championship will still feature open-wheel, rear wheel drive cars with humans in the cockpit, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality, autonomous functions, and electric propulsion will play major roles.

The MCLE concept is a 500 kilometers per hour (310 miles per hour), inductively charged, electric vehicle with shapeshifting active aerodynamic body panels and an on-board AI co-pilot that could learn and predict driver preferences and provide real-time updates via holographic heads-up displays. Much like simulation, big data, and material science, McLaren Applied Technologies sees racing as a potential incubator for the development of AI.

“In the future we could get to the point where human ingenuity is replaced with an AI algorithm,” explains Karl Surmacz, head of modelling and decision science at McLaren Applied Technologies. “Machine learning would see human preferences and decisions, as well as our domain expertise and instinct, captured. Take enough examples of our creative processes and outcomes, and this could be codified into an algorithm which would enable AI to make creative decisions consistent with those of a human counterpart.”

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Through wearable technology and symbiotic links, the AI could even react the driver’s mood and emotional state, to tailor advice based on the physiological and psychological feedback.

(Image source: McLaren Applied Technologies)

Embedded sensors and driver monitoring could also tie into a new level of audience interactivity through two-way, audience and driver “sentiment projection,” mood-based, color-shifting vehicle bodywork; and e-sports integration with virtual drivers scouting and relaying information to the driver and AI co-pilot.

Electric Formula 1

With the understanding that governments around the world are pushing to adopt zero-emission vehicles, McLaren Applied Technologies believes that by 2050, grand prix racing will be all-electric.

(Image source: McLaren Applied Technologies)


The company suggests that a car with a small electric motor married to a flexible, high-density battery, with the potential to be molded into the aerodynamic form of the bodywork, would provide the best propulsion framework. Charging technology may even become a drag reduction system-replacement: within a defined window, the car may be able to steal energy from the one ahead, which would present new strategic challenges.

According to McLaren Applied Technologies, complexity will lie in storing the energy, as opposed to turning the energy into motion which is currently the case. Based on the company’s research regarding Formula E powertrains, energy storage mechanisms will develop in breadth and depth as many development paths are explored, with cumbersome plug-in power to be a short-term solution.

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McLaren Applied Technologies engineers believe the MCLE cars will charge wirelessly, absorbing power from the ground via inductive resonant coupling. Motorsport is the perfect proving ground to prepare this technology for road use.

"Whether it will be possible in 2050 to fully charge the battery of a grand prix car from flat in less time than it takes a current Formula 1 car to complete a flying lap around the streets of Monaco is difficult to say at this stage," posits Stephen Lambert, head of automotive electrification at McLaren Applied Technologies. "But charging about 10 to 50% of the battery in around 10 to 30 seconds is conceivable.”

"Charging wirelessly sees electromagnetic induction used to transfer energy through an air gap from one magnetic coil buried under the track to a second magnetic coil fitted to the car," Lambert explains.

"When the car is sufficiently positioned for the coils to be aligned, it will induce a current in the car’s coil which feeds into the battery."

(Image source: McLaren Applied Technologies)

The MCLE concept includes a myriad of other designs:
  • Black out zones where drivers lose AI support and comms with the team
  • Reinvented grandstands that incorporate sections of glass-walled, or even glass-roofed track, allowing spectators to stand next to or on top of the track
  • Race suit that adopt g-suit technology from fighter aircraft to mitigate blood rush to driver extremities under increased g-loading while braking and when cornering
  • Transparent cockpits to highlight steering wheel movement and driver footwork
  • Tires made of a self-repairing composite
  • Longer and wider circuits with aggressively banked turns to increase the course’s dynamics while decreasing its footprint in urban areas

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William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.

Contact him regarding any article or collaboration ideas by e-mail at william.kucinski@sae.org.
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