A world record for Formula E, propelled by McKinsey’s AI

It was a blast from the future. On a damp evening last week in London, a new Formula E electric race car called GENBETA tore across the floor of EXCEL London, the home of the Hankook London E-Prix, hitting 218.71 kilometers per hour (135.9 mph).

Formula E is part of the FIA World Championship, racing electric vehicles across the world in city circuits and constantly pushing the electric-vehicle performance and innovation agenda forward. They did on this night. The run set a new Guinness World Record for indoor land speed—and reminded all of us that the pace of innovation has never been faster.

We are proud to have played a role in this effort. Experts from McKinsey’s AI arm, QuantumBlack, built data-and-analytics components to create the driver interface that analyzed and queried data in real time through generative AI for the record attempt. We did so in partnership with Google Cloud, whose GenAI solutions, including their off-the-shelf large language model, underpinned the platform and enabled us to go from design to use in three weeks.

McKinsey colleagues standing in front of an electric race car
The McKinsey Formula E team (L to R): Tey Bannerman, Benedict Vanderspar, Kayla Miele, Slavo Vojacek, and Dominic Stevens.
McKinsey colleagues standing in front of an electric race car

“Being involved in this effort was humbling and exhilarating,” says McKinsey associate partner Kayla Miele, who was on hand for the record-breaking run. “A new indoor land-speed world record is such a visceral expression of impact—and how powerful this technology can be when the right partners put it to work in the right way.”

QuantumBlack’s Formula E collaboration was also on display at the 2023 Hankook London E-Prix over the weekend, where a McKinsey-built, generative-AI-powered conversational interface converted data into insights in milliseconds and delivered them to fans in the “voice” of the car.

This highlighted one of generative AI’s most powerful, and inclusive, value propositions: giving more people the ability to engage and work with highly-technical datasets. 

“The entire setup was housed in an engineering station next to the racetrack,” says McKinsey engagement manager Dominic Stevens. “Fans of all ages were able to ask questions and engage in conversation with the record-breaking car via the generative AI-powered interface, which told them everything they wanted to know about the race and the performance of the cars shooting past them.”

The Formula E work is just the latest example of several exciting moves McKinsey has made in the AI space this year. In addition to publishing industry-leading reports on the technology, including our flagship study The economic potential of generative AI, we acquired a top AI and machine-learning firm, Iguazio, to accelerate and scale AI deployments for clients.

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“Iguazio will enable us to implement AI with fewer resources at significantly lower cost,” Alex Singla, McKinsey senior partner and QuantumBlack global co-leader, said in a McKinsey blog post. “This is especially meaningful for companies experiencing a critical shortage of tech talent, one of the reasons many AI projects have been delayed.”

We also launched QuantumBlack Horizon, a set of AI development tools built within QuantumBlack Labs, our AI and machine learning innovation hub. QuantumBlack Horizon is a first-of-its-kind product suite helping organizations realize value from AI.

“The launch is the culmination of significant investments in technical talent and R&D over the last three years. It includes critical McKinsey acquisitions like Iguazio, a leader in machine learning technology,” Alex Sukharevsky, senior partner and QuantumBlack global coleader, said in a McKinsey blog post. “The launch of QuantumBlack Horizon supports our belief that realizing value from major technological advancements in AI and machine learning requires an industrialized and cohesive production system, tech stack, and operating model.”

Most recently, we announced a new strategic collaboration with Cohere, the leading developer of enterprise AI platforms and state-of-the-art large language models. The collaboration will help clients harness the power of generative AI to drive business performance through tailored end-to-end solutions.

An electric race car on the track
The GENBETA car featured enhanced battery power output, softer tires, and 3D printed components to optimize aerodynamics.
An electric race car on the track

Collaboration was also at the heart of the land-speed attempt. Driver Jake Hughes of NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team broke the Guinness World Record. He was pushed by Mahindra Racing team driver Lucas di Grassi in a “duel” format, which saw the drivers try to outdo each other in timed solo runs on the track.

Google Cloud provided technology innovations on the GENBETA car, along with generative AI for analysis of the drivers’ runs.

Design modifications to the car included enhanced battery-power output, softer tires, and 3D printed components to optimize aerodynamics.

It all came together into a recipe for the record books. “Our colleagues do amazing things every week,” Rodney Zemmel, McKinsey senior partner and McKinsey Digital’s global leader said, “but helping a team get in the Guinness Book of World Records with a partner like Google Cloud is a pretty good week.”

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