IBM provides solar forecasting tech to UM Solar Car Team

Today, IBM Research (NYSE: IBM) announced that it is providing advanced solar forecasting technology to help the
University of Michigan team power its solar car in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, an 1,800-mile (3,000-kilometer) race across the Australian Outback.

The University of Michigan (UM) student team will use IBM Research’s cognitive computing technology to gain real-time insights into conditions such as wind patterns and cloud cover as well as determine how much solar power will be available to fuel the car along the race course. As the car is powered only by solar energy, more accurate forecasts can help the UM students decide how to drive their car more efficiently and improve their chances of winning.

IBM researchers are using machine learning to blend
data from sensor networks and local weather stations, cloud motion physics obtained from sky cameras and satellite observations, and multiple weather prediction models. This technology is unique in that most current forecasting techniques rely on individual weather models that offer a less comprehensive view of the variables that affect the availability of renewable energy sources.

IBM developed the solar forecasting technology through a program supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative to discover new ways to improve the accuracy of solar forecasts that can then be used to optimize solar resources as they’re increasingly integrated into the nation’s energy grid. The company says that by using state-of-art machine learning and other cognitive computing technologies, IBM scientists can generate solar and wind forecasts that are up to 30% more accurate than ones created using conventional approaches.

Leda Daehler, chief strategist of the UM Solar Car Team, commented, “Our goal is to design, engineer, and race the best solar-powered vehicle in the world. Predicting solar radiation plays a huge part in designing a strategy for solar car racing. IBM’s forecasting technology will help our team adapt and optimize our approach in real-time, and we expect it to provide a true advantage over the course of the race.”

The University of Michigan Solar Car Team is one of the world’s most successful solar car race teams, holding numerous international and national championships. This year the team says they are confident that IBM’s solar forecasting technology will help them make better decisions in their racing strategy when their car, Aurum, competes over four days in the World Solar Challenge. The team says they will leverage two kinds of forecasts provided by IBM’s solar forecasting technology.


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Tracy Venkatesh

Tracy Venkatesh

Tracy Venkatesh has spent twenty years working and interacting with a socioeconomically diverse population in both the private and public sectors, and has held positions in multiple verticals including content development, healthcare, customer relations management, defense and law enforcement.

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