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Survival of the fastest: scientists 'selectively breed' winning Formula One cars

Speed is the name of the game in the world of racing and now UCL scientists have developed a technique that 'breeds' winning Formula One cars.

By applying Darwinian principles to the art of motor racing, the researchers demonstrate in simulations that it's possible to knock crucial tenths of a second off lap time by tailoring a car's setup to whatever conditions are faced on the track.

In a paper to be presented later this month at a conference in Seattle, researchers will report on a new computer model based on genetic algorithms that optimises performance by selectively combining the best settings of Formula One cars to produce the ultimate configuration.

Results show it's possible to shave 0.88 of a second per lap from the best time. In an industry where 1/100th of a second can separate a winner from a loser, that can make all the difference.

Dr. Peter Bentley, leader of the Digital Biology Group at UCL's Department of Computer Science and senior author of the study, says:

"Formula One spends millions each year designing and applying the latest technology to ensure their cars can handle whatever is thrown at them on the track. Each car can be modified in hundreds of way to optimise performance. Even minor changes in wing height, suspension stiffness or type of tyre rubber are 'tweaked' to give them the competitive edge.

"Before every race, attempts are made to optimise settings for given conditions but cars are so finely calibrated than even subtle changes in temperature can affect performance. Decisions are based on experience but there are no guarantees they will always get it right.

"By running simulations we were able to distinguish how different facets of the car perform. Each best performance solution was treated as though it had its own genes that define those parameters. These winning solutions were then bred to produce the next generation, which combined the best settings of both parent cars until
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Contact: Judith H Moore
judith.moore@ucl.ac.uk
44-0-20-7679-7678
University College London
16-Jun-2004


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