ASC 2016: Day 2

Day 2 of the American Solar Challenge 2016 road race involves running from the overnight stops to the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in Vincennes, Indiana (the second stage of the race will commence from there on Monday, 1 August).

The map below (click to zoom) shows car positions as at the time indicated on the run to Vincennes (compensated for GPS lag by extrapolating positions using the speeds given in the GPS feed). The table under the map shows approximate road distances from the starting line. Michigan is still very much in the lead, but there is competition for second place.

2 Michigan 616 km (383 mi)
51 Dunwoody (Combined SER) 509 km (316 mi)
32 Principia 504 km (313 mi)
828 Appalachian State (Sunergy) 475 km (295 mi)
55 Poly Montreal (Esteban) 446 km (277 mi)
6 Berkeley (CalSol) 437 km (272 mi)
9 Iowa State (PrISUm) 437 km (271 mi)
35 Minnesota 435 km (270 mi)
17 Illinois State 415 km (258 mi)
77 Toronto (Blue Sky) 412 km (256 mi)
42 Missouri S&T 411 km (256 mi)
92 ETS Quebec (Eclipse) 404 km (251 mi)

Here is Principia (team 32) during their morning charge:

Update 1: Michigan (team 2) arrived at Vincennes at 11:02:41 AM. Here they are:

The race wasn’t all fun and games, however: Iowa State (team 9) ran into electrical problems, while the other cars continued to push on towards Vincennes:

Update 2: Aaron Frantz posted a photograph of the timing board at Vincennes. Based on that, here are my Stage 1 speed estimates, with a comparison to the 2015 World Solar Challenge (grey bars):

The sole Cruiser is shown here in green. In honour of the US National Parks, the colour palette of this chart is from this picture of Wind Cave National Park. Comparing ASC and WSC speeds, it seems likely that, had car 51 been entered in the 2015 WSC, it might have finished in the top 15 there.

Update 3: Official timings, taking penalties into account, put Principia (team 32) in 2nd place for Stage 1, followed by Dunwoody (51) in 3rd, Appalachian State (828) in in 4th, and Toronto (77) in 5th. Toronto have clearly recovered from their problems at the start, averaging 60.9 km/h (37.8 mph) on the run from Dayton to Vincennes, which is 1.1 km/h (0.7 mph) faster than Dunwoody. If Toronto keep that up, they will finish the ASC in second place – although in a race like this, anything can happen!


ASC 2016: Day 1

And at noon on the first day of the American Solar Challenge 2016 road race, the leaders are, in order:

The map above shows car positions as at the time indicated (compensated for GPS lag by extrapolating positions using the speeds given in the GPS feed). Sadly, teams 77 (Toronto) and 6 (Berkeley) had problems at the starting line, and were a little late in heading out. The map and table below show (uncompensated) end-of-day positions. Michigan is in the lead in Brownstown, IN, while Kentucky unfortunately had to withdraw.

2 Michigan 578 km (359 miles)
51 Dunwoody (American S.E.R.) 494 km (307 miles)
32 Principia 466 km (289 miles)
828 Appalachian State (Sunergy) 460 km (286 miles)
55 Poly Montreal 440 km (273 miles)
35 Minnesota 417 km (259 miles)
6 Berkeley (CalSol) 414 km (257 miles)
17 Illinois State 412 km (256 miles)
77 Toronto (Blue Sky) 410 km (255 miles)
9 Iowa State (PrISUm) 409 km (254 miles)
92 ETS Quebec 389 km (241 miles)
42 Missouri S&T 387 km (241 miles)
3 Kentucky Withdrawn

Here is App State (828) checking in at Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, OH:

The National Park Service has a highlight video here. Minnesota, the sole Cruiser in the race, has some beautifully illustrated blog posts on the pre-race exhibition and on the first day. Aaron Frantz recorded some unofficial arrival times at Dayton, while Toronto explain what went wrong at the start. Based on the unofficial times into Dayton, here are my speed estimates, with a comparison to the 2015 World Solar Challenge (grey bars):

The sole Cruiser is shown here in green. In honour of the US National Parks, the colour palette of this chart is from this picture of Wind Cave National Park.


ASC 2016: How convoys work


A typical convoy (photo of solar car by Jorrit Lousberg, from here)

Solar cars in the American Solar Challenge each form part of a convoy – a typical convoy is shown above (click to zoom). The lead (front) escort vehicle must travel 500 metres or less ahead of the solar car, with headlights on and roof-mounted amber lights flashing.

The chase (rear) escort vehicle follows directly behind the solar car, also with roof-mounted amber lights flashing, and bearing a sign that says “CAUTION: SOLAR CAR CARAVAN AHEAD.” Both escort vehicles must carry safety equipment such as first aid kits and fire extinguishers. The chase (rear) escort vehicle typically also houses the team’s Decision-Making Unit (DMU), who plan the strategy for the race.


Left: Michigan’s lead and chase vehicles for the 2010 American Solar Challenge. Right: interior of Nuon’s chase vehicle for the 2011 World Solar Challenge.

The truck (or car with a trailer) rides further behind (at least 1 km). It carries equipment and provides the ability to transport the solar car in the event of a breakdown.


Left: Michigan’s semi-trailer driving down the Stuart Highway in the 2011 World Solar Challenge (photo: Marcin Szczepanski). Right: Calgary’s road crew truck from the 2005 North American Solar Car Challenge (photo: James Tworow).

The (optional) scout vehicle rides well ahead (at least 1 km), checking out road conditions and potential hazards. One of the less pleasant tasks for people in the scout vehicle is getting out and removing roadkill or other obstructions from the road.

There may also be additional vehicles, like media cars, or a weather car watching for clouds an hour or so ahead of the solar car. All the cars in the convoy stay in touch using CB radio. It takes a whole team to race a solar car! Sometimes quite a large team.

Click images for credits and larger pictures.


ASC 2016: What was that car?

Didn’t quite catch the number of that solar car as it whizzed past? Here is my identification chart for entries in the American Solar Challenge 2016 road race (click to zoom):

This infographic was produced using the R statistical software suite, with the igraph network package.


American Solar Challenge 2016 Road Race

Listed below are the 13 solar car teams which have qualified for the American Solar Challenge 2016 road race (including provisional qualifications). Social media hyperlinks are also provided (click on the icons). The road race begins on 30 July, with the Award Ceremony being held on 6 August. Follow the ASC on Facebook and Twitter, check out the illustrated route details I posted earlier, and catch the live GPS tracking and timing updates. I will not be plotting my usual graphs for the ASC, leaving it up to Jeffrey Cwagenberg’s site. I will post regular updates, however.

2 – Michigan  
Michigan came 4th in the 2015 World Solar Challenge in Australia and won ASC 2014. Their car is named Aurum, and is described here. The car has been modified to fit ASC rules, with a “safety bulge” beside the driver. This has an aerodynamic cost, and incurs a daily 6-minute penalty, but Michigan are still race favourites. They qualified for the road race on the first day of the FSGP.

3 – Kentucky  
Their car is named Gato del Sol V. It is three-wheeled. This team has provisional qualification for the ASC.

6 – Berkeley (CalSol)  
Their car is named Zephyr. It is four-wheeled and symmetrical.

9 – Iowa State (PrISUm)  
This team won FSGP 2015 and came third in ASC 2014. They have a teaser video for ASC 2016 here, and there is also some news coverage with details on their car, which is a three-wheeler named Phaëton 2. Apparently, like some other teams, they have a daily 5-minute penalty for failing the wet braking test.

17 – Illinois State  
Their car is named Mercury 5s, and is a rebuilt version of the Mercury V car lost to a battery fire in 2014. The car is four-wheeled and symmetrical.

32 – Principia  
Principia came 17th in the 2015 World Solar Challenge in Australia (7.19 hours behind Toronto) and 6th in the Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge. Their well-travelled symmetrical four-wheeled car is named Ra 9, and is described here. They qualified for the road race on the first day of the FSGP.

35 – Minnesota  
Minnesota came 5th in the 2015 World Solar Challenge Cruiser Class, the only American team in that class. Their car is named Eos, and is described here. They are reporting their race experiences on their website here. They qualified for the road race on the first day of the FSGP, and are the only Cruiser to qualify.

42 – Missouri S&T  
This team is racing the latest in their Solar Miner series, which is a three-wheeled car. There is some news coverage of the team here.

51 – Dunwoody (American S.E.R.)  
This team, made up of apprentices from Buhler North America in conjunction with Dunwoody College of Technology, is partnered with the Swiss Team 15, and will merge with team 15 for the ASC road race, due to problems. Their car is named SER-2. Provided by their Swiss colleagues, it is four-wheeled and symmetrical. This team has provisional qualification for the ASC.

55 – Poly Montreal  
This team came second in FSGP 2015. Their car is named Esteban 8. It is four-wheeled and symmetrical. Apparently they had to do some repairs after an incident during road-testing, but the car is fine now.

77 – Toronto (Blue Sky)  
Toronto came 12th in the 2015 World Solar Challenge in Australia (8.76 hours behind Michigan). Their car is named Horizon. It is asymmetrical, but they do not seem to have had the same kind of difficulties with the ASC rules as Michigan have. There is a campus news story on the team here.

92 – ETS Quebec  
Their new symmetrical four-wheeled titanium-chassis car is named Éclipse 9, and is described here. The car appears to be overly wide, and has attracted a daily 3-minute race penalty (half that of Michigan). They qualified for the road race on the first day of the FSGP.

828 – Appalachian State (Sunergy)  
Their car is named Apperion. It is three-wheeled. There is some news coverage of the team here. They qualified for the road race on the first day of the FSGP.

Click photos for larger images and photo credits, and see also the route map below.

It is a hillier route than the World Solar Challenge, spanning 1,355 metres (4,446 feet) from lowest to highest point (altitudes taken from a 30-second raster grid, not from actual measurements on the road itself). I expect that some cars will struggle a little on some of the hills (note that this chart is reversed compared to the map above).


Looking back: 1991


Singapore

In 1991, I started my second lecturing job, at the National University of Singapore. I was to spend three years in Singapore, and a great experience it was – culturally, intellectually, and (of course) gastronomically. That year saw the launch of the World Wide Web on the Internet (although it was to be almost three years before I realised that the WWW existed). The arXiv launched in 1991 as well (I was unaware of that too). Linux was released later in the year (but I was already using other flavours of Unix, so it wasn’t really relevant). That year saw the release of several bad films, but also the long-awaited Terminator 2:

Also in 1991, Eugenio Moggi developed a confusing functional programming construct, which shared the name of an confusing concept in the philosophy of Leibniz. Robin Milner, who indirectly influenced my career in several ways, won a well-deserved Turing Award.


Replica of Ötzi in the Smithsonian Museum (my photo)

In what was to prove a very significant discovery, Sumio Iijima observed carbon nanotubes for the first time. In the Ötztal Alps, a mummified man from around 3300 BC was discovered. Examination of “Ötzi” taught us a great deal about life in Chalcolithic Europe.


Mount Pinatubo erupts

World events of 1991 included Operation Desert Storm (responding to the invasion of Kuwait), the eruption of Mount Pinatubo (the second-largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century), and the dissolution of the Soviet Union (which recreated forgotten nations like Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia).

Books published in 1991 included the unusual Empire of the Ants, the interesting The Infinite Plan, the underrated Jurassic Park, and the delightful Sophie’s World. I enjoyed all of those (although I did not read them all that year).


Formula Sun Grand Prix 2016

Most competitors in the American Solar Challenge 2016 are now running laps in the Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP) at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex. I thought it would be interesting to compare the fastest lap speeds so far (from here) against selected average speeds from the World Solar Challenge 2015:

Michigan has the fastest FSGP lap, running faster than their WSC 2015 average speed. Principia and Toronto were also running faster. The other interesting point is that all the fastest cars seem to be four-wheelers.

Note: this picture has been updated to replace an earlier one.