Verizon Helps Team Penske Gear Up for Indy 500 with 5G

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In a race where milliseconds count, Team Penske enlisted Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network to help reclaim their spot in the winner’s circle at the Indy 500 this weekend.

To prepare for the 103rd running of the Indy 500, Team Penske leveraged 5G Ultra Wideband to analyze the performance of cars coming in and out of the first turn on the 2.5 mile speedway.

Turn one is critical for drivers because it’s the first 90 degree left hand turn they have to navigate after the straightaway from the starting line. By streaming high-quality video content over 5G-connected cameras to and from the spotter stand, Team Penske was able to better analyze a driver’s performance and make real-time changes while the car was still on the track.

“Prior to 5G, we’d capture video of a six to seven hour practice session, store it in on a memory card, then go back to the garage and analyze that information after practice,” said Carlos Gutierrez, an engineer with Team Penske. “With 5G, we have that video content almost instantly so we can tweak performance on a run-by-run basis instead of the following day. The faster this data gets to the team, the faster we can help the driver on the next lap and gain a competitive edge.”

Thanks to 5G’s high bandwidth and low latency, video processing and analysis that used to take the team hours now took just seconds. Penske’s engineers were able to take the nearly real-time video transmission and overlay feeds from multiple drivers’ previous laps so they could visibly compare driver lines and alert the pit and driver of what adjustments were needed to improve performance on the next go round.

“5G is giving Team Penske unique visibility into driver’s performance coming in and out of turn one, which they are taking at speeds of about 230 miles per hour,” said Alex Smith, Principle Member of Technical Staff at Verizon. “In addition to providing near real-time video to engineers in the pit and garage, we’re also providing the spotter with near real-time video feeds from different cameras on the track that they can view on their tablet. Before, spotters had to rely on a pair of binoculars, or delayed video feeds. With 5G, we’re giving them access to information they never had before so they can warn the driver of an accident ahead or who’s coming up behind them.”

Two years ago on the same racetrack, Verizon showed off 5G’s low latency by blacking out the window of an IndyCar and equipping the driver with virtual reality (VR) glasses to navigate the track. A camera on the hood of the car, streamed live video over 5G sent back to the driver’s glasses so he could react appropriately while racing at super-fast speeds.

Working with Verizon, the NFL and NBA have also tested how 5G can improve athletes’ performance and the fan experience. Last year, we demonstrated how 5G technology – connecting a pair of first-person goggles and helmet-mounted cameras – could give two NFL players the ability to run plays and catch footballs in a VR environment. We also demonstrated how 5G and AR/VR can transform the fan experience. To show how everyone could one day have the “best seat in the house”, we invited a bunch of students to the Golden 1 Center to see a live Kings vs. Lakers game and gave them “virtual” courtside seats using AR/VR and 5G. For IndyCar fans, that means whether at the track or at home, 5G could allow them to experience the race from inside a driver’s car from multiple angles and choose different live-video camera angles on the car all streamed live in 4K.

“We are always looking for new ways to engage technology to improve performance and, no doubt, Verizon 5G has enabled us to do things we couldn’t do before, which gives us an edge to win the big race,” added Gutierrez. “The difference between first and last place is often a couple of hundredths of a second so if we can get and evaluate information essentially in real-time and tweak performance it clearly gives us a huge advantage.”