advertisement
advertisement

PAID CONTENT

IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH

How Envision Virgin Racing uses analytics and digital technology to win on the track—and in the sprint against climate change

Its commitment to data and purpose drives the most tech-savvy—and environmentally forward—team in motorsport

How Envision Virgin Racing uses analytics and digital technology to win on the track—and in the sprint against climate change

Any number of factors can affect the outcome of a Formula E race. The motorsport series, which launched in 2014, is the world’s first fully electric, single-seat racing event. Some incidents—like a crash in front of a driver—are hard to avoid, while others, such as rain and wind, are out of everyone’s control. But Envision Virgin Racing has a distinct advantage. The team has cutting-edge data analytics and augmented intelligence on its side, allowing its two drivers to operate their electric vehicles not just at the highest speeds possible, but also with maximum efficiency—which can mean the split-second difference between the checkered flag and second-place.

advertisement

Envision Virgin Racing drivers are no strangers to the Formula E podium—awarded to the top-three finishers—in part because of the team’s partnership with Genpact, a global professional services firm focused on digital transformation. The collaboration harnesses data and analytics to sharpen the team’s race strategy, boost performance on the track, and raise awareness of its purpose: the race against climate change. Meeting these goals are essential for the Formula E team as it competes in the world championship and works to change attitudes toward electric mobility.

“Formula E is, of course, about being fast and winning races, but doing so using the least amount of energy possible,” says Envision Virgin Racing’s Managing Director and CTO, Sylvain Filippi. “All the cars on the grid start with the exact same amount of energy in their battery, and whomever is using this energy in the most efficient way [while driving the fastest] will win the race.”

Genpact’s technology helps Envision Virgin Racing do this with data analytics and augmented intelligence—the combination of machine-generated insights and human know-how, context, and experience—that engineers, drivers, and pit crew rely on during races to make quick decisions and shift strategies. And to support the team’s carbon-neutral credentials, Genpact also helps them track carbon emissions and spread the word about its Race Against Climate Change sustainability platform. This blend of advanced technology and awareness-raising form a powerful combination that encourages climate-friendly practices both on and off the track.

advertisement
advertisement

MAKING MAGIC HAPPEN

Envision Virgin Racing began working with Genpact three years ago. Combining the team’s racing expertise with Genpact’s data-science insights and AI capabilities “was a bit of a no-brainer,” Filippi says. As Amaresh Tripathy, global business lead for analytics at Genpact, puts it, the firm wanted to figure out how to “elevate an already world-class team and make it even more data-driven.”

Formula E teams and cars generate vast amounts of data about battery usage, speed, and braking and acceleration habits—there’s even audio from engineers communicating with drivers on the course. There’s additional third-party data to account for, on key information such as weather and track conditions. The challenge is to process, analyze, and extract the insights from that plethora of data at speed to guide engineers and drivers in each race.

That’s impossible for humans alone to accomplish, but achievable with Genpact’s AI-based technology, which analyzes a number of possible scenarios for how the race could go. It also takes data collected from numerous practice and race laps to inform drivers on how they perform at any point on a track, spotting styles that help determine how to approach each race. This is vital in every race as the team has just hours between qualifying and the race itself to analyze new information. And it’s especially important in double-headers—when there are two races on consecutive days.

advertisement

A major difference between Formula E and other motorsports is that teams compete in a timed race of 45 minutes plus one lap, which makes accurate energy management paramount. Races have been lost by drivers who run out of power meters from the finish line. “If you have an accurate prediction for how many laps are left in a race,” Tripathy says, “you can make more confident decisions about how you use energy for overtaking—or if you need to hold back and conserve power.”

Of course, AI doesn’t do this work alone. Race car engineers and drivers still use their judgment and skills on the track. When you couple that with the machine’s calculations, as Tripathy puts it, “magic happens—you win races.”

Formula E races are 45 minutes plus one lap, which makes energy management important—races have been lost by drivers who run out of power meters from the finish line.
Formula E races are 45 minutes plus one lap, which makes energy management important—races have been lost by drivers who run out of power meters from the finish line.

SPREADING THE WORD ON SUSTAINABILITY

Winning races isn’t the only data problem the team faces. So is being accredited carbon neutral at the highest level, which requires Envision Virgin Racing to report its carbon-footprint data to the Carbon Trust, which partners with businesses to support their sustainability goals.

advertisement

“You have to monitor every single thing you do,” Filippi says. Collecting that data—on flights and suppliers, for example—used to consume enormous amounts of time. That changed when Genpact embedded automation into the team’s reporting process, allowing faster access to insights and freeing up time to focus on winning races. Envision Virgin Racing became the first team in Formula E to earn carbon-neutral accreditation, and it maintains this credential with the help of this intel.

Part of the team’s focus on climate change prevention is spreading the word about its efforts. “There would be no point in doing what we do if no one [knows] about it,” Filippi says. That’s where marketing and media comes in.

Envision is a renewable energy and green-technology company, so the team’s Race Against Climate Change platform promotes its parent company’s goals. These include “accelerating mass adoption of electric cars powered by renewable energy,” Filippi says. “We race to create this platform to show the wider public what electric cars can do and how exciting and fun they can be.”

advertisement

Meeting fans where they’re at is instrumental to effective messaging. (Some 400 million people tuned into Formula E races last year before the season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.) Using data-driven insights, Genpact helps Envision Virgin Racing understand its fan base so the team can best engage with every type of viewer. This helps to shape the team’s marketing strategies and, ultimately, attract even more fans.

INNOVATING FROM TRACK TO STREET—AND BEYOND

Motorsports have long influenced the cars most of us drive. Antilock brakes, traction control, and rearview mirrors all appeared in race cars before trickling down to consumer automobiles. Electric vehicle technology will likely follow the same path.

Furthermore, the lessons Genpact has learned from using data and AI to help win races and fight climate change can apply across other industries. The firm works with businesses in consumer goods, manufacturing, banking, and insurance, helping them to create greater value for their customers while also building sustainable practices. Profit and purpose—on the racetrack and in enterprise businesses—can go hand-in-hand.

advertisement

For Tripathy, Genpact’s partnership with Envision Virgin Racing “demonstrates how advanced analytics can impact not only race results, but also the bigger, more urgent call in the race against climate change.”

advertisement
advertisement
advertisement

About the author

FastCo Works is Fast Company's branded content studio. Advertisers commission us to consult on projects, as well as to create content and video on their behalf.

More