Opening the Doors of Engineering and Design

Ian Tonkin

Is it conceivable that that racing teams could share their designs and secrets with the public and their competitors? Perish the thought! Discounting the F1 ‘Spygate’ saga in 2007, top-end race car designs have remained under lock and key. That is until now…

Project 424* is a truly unique project as we’re using online-based software and modelling tools with a very visible and openly accessible ethos in the design and ongoing development of what will be the world’s fastest electric and autonomous racing car. Yes, that’s right…Project 424 is expected to be fully electric, powered by three Formula E motors, plus it will have an autonomous mode that will learn a driver’s race inputs on a hot lap and then replicate it on the in-lap to return to the pits without any human inputs. *Project 424 relates to the Le Mans 24hr ‘Project for 24(h)’ geddit?

Take a look at the design here on Onshape

Project 424 is a global platform that aims to solve a number of complex problems facing future mobility. All elements of the project are designed using online cloud-based tools, which extends to the communication tools used to connect team members distributed around the globe. Project 424 is a case study on what can be achieved using the platform in collaborating to collectively solve ultra-complex challenges – all open access.

This open source/open access part then, what does this mean exactly for Project 424? Simple. You can view, see, participate and follow the development of the car as everything – and we do mean everything – is done using the platform. Log-on now and go see for yourself. All the technical drawings, specifications, livery development and digital modelling can be viewed right here. No special Platinum VIP lanyards and wristbands, no menacing-looking security guard restricting access…no, the doors are wide open and we want to invite you all in.

For a bit of background, here’s what Google Open Source says on its website: “Google believes that open source is good for everyone. By being open and freely available, it enables and encourages collaboration and the development of technology, solving real world problems.” That's why we're adopting the same mantra with Project 424.

Follow the conversations of the engineers, the designers, the Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) team, the commercial, marketing and communications teams live and online 24/7/365. This is ‘transparency’ in its truest form. While it might seem counter-intuitive to have this level of transparency and public accessibility, there’s more to it than that. Let me explain. Open Source provides an incredibly flexible platform for collaboration and continuous improvement – software developers have been using for ages already and they’ll tell you that it’s the fastest and most efficient way to develop a project/technology/software.

There’s also cost benefits, the development of a community spirit, transparency, reliability, freedom from prescriptive proprietary software/designs and increased competitiveness of the car, but the supply chain that supports it as a number of businesses can manufacture a suspension upright, rear wing, sensor or carbonfibre body panel because, you guessed it, the designs are there in plain sight for any large multinational or one-man-band engineering firm to utilise.

Think about it another way just for a second. Project 424 is always at the cutting edge because refinements and improvements to its design and performance are being made in real-time. The best version of the car is always right at this very second. When we go racing in the future and begin to start setting EV and autonomous lap records at tracks around the world, we want you to come with us on this journey and feel like you’ve had a hand in the success of Project 424. Development and production costs are reduced and, hopefully, make motorsport more accessible and less cost-prohibitive to new and existing teams.

I could go on for pages and pages here and we've not even touched on the data capture, data transfer, automation, cloud platforms and systems integration elements to this project yet. But stay tuned because there's loads more to come over the weeks, months and years ahead.