About Amerisurv| Contact    
Magazine | Newsletter    
Flickr Photos | Advertise    
HomeNewsNewsletterAmerisurv DirectoryJobsStoreAuthorsHistoryArchivesBlogVideosEvents

Sponsored By

Software Reviews
Continuing Series
An RTN expert provides everything you need to know about network-corrected real-time GNSS observations.
Click Here to begin the series,
or view the Article PDF's Here
76-PageFlip Compilation
of the entire series
Test Yourself

Got Answers?
Test your knowledge with NCEES-level questions.
  Start HERE
Meet the Authors
Check out our fine lineup of writers. Each an expert in his or her field.
Wow Factor
Sponsored By

Product Reviews
Partner Sites







Spatial Media LLC properties




Home arrow Archives   The American Surveyor     

Scanning In The Streets Print E-mail
Written by Tom Greaves   
Friday, 05 December 2008

A 1.521Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

Anyone who's visited Fenway Park to see the Boston Red Sox knows that current principal owner John Henry is among the world's best in sports event marketing. The Red Sox Nation experience spans generations and economic strata and reaches from eastern Maine to Tokyo. So what else does John Henry do for fun? He's a simracer. He likes it so much that in 2004 he and Dave Kaemmer launched iRacing.com Motorsport Simulations LLC. Kaemmer, a simulation video game programmer and creator with a slew of titles to his name, has created an Internet-based simulated racing service for professionals who race in the physical world and hobbyists who simultaneously race each other over the Internet. The company aims to deliver many of the benefits currently realized by Formula One teams with proprietary, seven-figure simulation suites. In late August, it launched its much-anticipated subscription-based service allowing virtually anyone anywhere in the world with an up-to-date PC, high-speed Internet access and a set of automotive-style wheel-and-pedal controls to race in real-time, online competition. The simulation environment of iRacing.com offers rich opportunities for embedded product placement and linkages.

How does this sector of the entertainment world relate to surveyors? Plenty. To read how, buckle up and read on.

The Key Drivers for Scanning
As more firms seek to attract the best people­particularly young people­the best tools are a must. And the more 3D tools, the better. High-fidelity 3D simulation environments are where 3D solutions­those technology solutions many surveyors are turning to­are headed. Additionally, situational awareness attained from 3D models is a key to the safe operation on a jobsite, whether it is a race track or a construction site. In the transportation sector particularly, there is a long record of innovation in safety and performance migrating from the race track to the road. But will the physical world imitate the simulation? Of course, and that's where design comes in.

Using a Leica HDS3000, iRacing engineers have scanned 44 race tracks for the company's digital track inventory, including super speedway ovals such as Daytona International Speedway in Florida, Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina, Atlanta Motor Speedway in Georgia, and Richmond International Raceway in Virginia. Also included are short-oval tracks such as Martinsville Speedway and the South Boston Speedway in Virginia, Toyota Speedway in Irwindale, California, and Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut, as well as a selection of road circuits ranging from Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Salinas, California, Summit Point Motorsports Park in West Virginia, Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Virginia, and Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. All told, the company has licensed more than 60 tracks in the United States and Europe, including all but two of the tracks where NASCAR's Sprint Cup competes.

They've also modeled (and scanned in some cases) eight race vehicles. Among them are a street-legal road-racing Pontiac Solstice, a Skip Barber SB2000 racing school single-seater, a 1,650pound, 800-horsepower, open-wheel Silver Crown oval-track racer, and a vintage Formula One championshipwinning Lotus 79.

Why scan? According to CEO Kaemmer, it's the only way to get the accuracy and level of detail required­the same reason many surveyors turn to the technology. Using only GPS, video and satellite information is inadequate. The true nature of a race track is revealed in the bumps, minor camber changes and other subtle details, says Kaemmer, who won nearly 20 races in the Skip Barber Racing Series during a multi-year competition career and who once held the Lime Rock Park lap record for the series. "To really learn a race track," Kaemmer says, "a driver needs a very accurate `sight picture' from the cockpit. Laser scanning, which provides millimeter precision, is the key to providing that. The point cloud from the laser scan is the skeleton for a representation of the track that has stunning verisimilitude."

Using Leica's Cyclone software, iRacing engineers register scan data and export it to proprietary tools for processing. To get real-time performance­this is racing after all­the track builder loads and unloads local model data into memory based on the distance to the vehicle. iRacing's software also organizes racers according to their experience and safety record.

iRacing's core technology also includes a physics engine with a proprietary tire model to simulate vehicle dynamics. Kaemmer and Ian Berwick, who heads iRacing's race car engineering department, collected data for the model by testing real racing tires on a 75,000-pound test rig at the Calspan Tire Research Facility in Buffalo, New York. According to Kaemmer, "Race-tire technology remains something of a black art­no matter how accurately the track and the car are represented, the simulation experience won't be `right' unless the tire model is accurate. Our goal is to go beyond curve-fitting to a model that is actually predictive."

To be useful as a simulation tool for racers preparing for a race on a physical track requires both detail and accuracy. Drivers take their braking cues, for example, from fine track markings or objects beside the track. They have to be in the right place in the driver's field of view. According to the company, its beta users report that using the system is equivalent to getting the first practice set completed.

As track time can cost up to $30,000 per hour, simulation economics make sense, too. Not only is track time expensive, supply is scarce on race weekends. Time spent on familiarizing drivers with the track is time that's not available for fine-tuning the car for the race.

An Entrepreneurial Business Model
The business model for iRacing is every bit as intriguing as the company's use of technology. The company has nonexclusive agreements with International Speedway Corporation and Speedway Motorsports, Inc., which own all but two of the NASCAR tracks. iRacing owns the digital models. What's in it for the track owner? According to Steve Potter, iRacing's director of communications and former vice president and general manager at Lime Rock Park, community and eyeball potential are important, particularly when it comes to getting sponsorship and broadcasting revenues. For tracks that host top-tier racing series, such as NASCAR, sponsorship and broadcasting revenues exceed ticket sales at the track by a wide margin. Of course, the up-front investment for the simulation is borne entirely by iRacing, not by the track owner. iRacing has found a new way to keep the most enthusiastic champions of the sport coming back to the track­virtually!

Tom Greaves is CEO and co-founder of Spar Point Research in Danvers, Massachusetts. He has more than 20 years' experience in engineering, product development, and business research and analysis.

Author Note: A few weeks after I wrote this story, Bruce Hall, president of Velodyne LIDAR, and I paid a visit to iRacing's headquarters to experience the system firsthand. After a few warm-up laps, Bruce and I raced each other around Lime Rock for eight laps in entry-level Pontiac Solstices. What a blast! After 30 minutes (which seemed more like three seconds or three hours) my head was spinning. The realism of the track, the car and the response is truly astonishing. An earlier version of this story appeared in the SparView newsletter, Vol. 6, No. 10. If you'd like to learn more about how laser scanning and other 3D imaging technologies are changing the rules of engineering, construction and surveying, attend SPAR 2009 (March 30 ­ April 1) at the Hyatt Regency Denver. 

A 1.521Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

< Prev   Next >

 American Surveyor Recent Articles
Thought Leader: Land is Too Important to Be Left to Land Specialists
A while back I was searching the Internet for an old treatise on land titles. A Google query yielded a book published in 1914. The author was Charles Claudius Kagey and the book was titled "Land Survey and Land Titles, a book for boys and girls, a reference volume for property owners, a text ....
Read the Article
Jason E. Foose, PS 
Decided Guidance: Wacker vs. Price - Irony in Sevenfold
This month's case takes us to Phoenix, Arizona in 1950. The Arizona Supreme Court went all guns-a-blazin' in Wacker vs. Price (216 P.2d 707 (Ariz. 1950)). Maybe it's just me, but I'm sensing plenty of irony and have taken license to point it out along the way. I like what the Court did with this case ....
Read the Article
Allen E. Cheves 
Around the Bend - A Visit to Carlson Software
The Ohio River is one of America's greatest, running near 1,000 miles between Pittsburgh and the Mighty Mississippi. Much of the coal and other products that fueled our nation's industrial expansion flowed between the shores of this maritime ....
Read the Article
Lee Lovell, PS 
Surveying & Mapping Economics Part 3 - Customers & Services
This article continues an inquiry into the economic conditions of the Surveying and Mapping industry (NAICS 541370) using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This time we will look at customers and services. The data comes from the Economic Census conducted every 5 years on American ....
Read the Article
Jerry Penry, PS 
True Elevation: Black Elk Peak
Black Elk Peak, located in the Black Hills region of South Dakota, is the state's highest natural point. It is frequently referred to as the highest summit in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. Two other peaks, Guadalupe Peak in Texas and ....
Read the Article
Larry Trojak 
Bringing The Goods - Mobile Scanning an Integral Component
When Jim Smith, Jerrad Burns and Charlie Patton left the Memphis division of a major construction company in 2015, they took with them the knowledge of how to get even the most complex jobs done and what equipment could best serve them in making that happen. So when they joined West ....
Read the Article
Lee Lovell, PS 
Test Yourself 41: Integers, Integers, and Integers
ABF is a 5:12:13 triangle, ACF is a 48:55:73 triangle, ADF is a 3:4:5 triangle, and AEF is a 7:24:25 triangle, all with integer sides and inscribed in a semi-circle. What are the lengths of BC, CD, and DE? ....
Read the Article
Wendy Lathrop, PS, CFM 
Vantage Point: Sunset or Sunrise?
While we often think of legislated government programs as static, they do change over time. Such evolution and opportunity for transformation are part of the dialogue in reauthorizing these programs. Every so many years there is a sunset on each government program, and this September is the ....
Read the Article


Amerisurv Exclusive Online-only Article ticker
Featured Amerisurv Events
List Your Event Here
contact Amerisurv


JAVAD Intros
Spoofer Buster

press [at] amerisurv.com
Online Internet Content


News Feeds

Subscribe to Amerisurv news & updates via RSS or get our Feedburn
xml feed

Need Help? See this RSS Tutorial

Historic Maps

post a job
Reach our audience of Professional land surveyors and Geo-Technology professionals with your GeoJobs career ad. Feel free to contact us if you need additional information.


Social Bookmarks

Amerisurv on Facebook 

Amerisurv LinkedIn Group 

Amerisurv Flickr Photos 

Amerisurv videos on YouTube 



The American Surveyor © All rights reserved / Privacy Statement
Spatial Media LLC
905 W 7th St #331
Frederick MD 21701
301-695-1538 - fax