Marseille, France —You pull onto the highway and have to turn your radio volume up to hear your favorite station.
Or the person on your cell phone says, "Speak up! Are you in a car?"
Automotive noise has always been a fact of life—you go faster, you go louder. But now two companies are teaming up to try to beat the problem. MCube, a French CFD software company, has developed an application to simulate wind noise from automotive side mirrors and exhaust systems. Called computational aeroacoustic analysis (CAA), the software could help increase passenger cabin comfort.
There's only one problem—it demands more computer processing power than anyone's ever seen. So MCube plans to use the latest supercomputer from Cray Inc., the SV1ex. It can crank out 7 Gigaflops per processor, and achieve 1,800 Gigaflops through parallel computing.
But it's the single chip power that's crucial for this job. "It's one of those jobs that doesn't run well if you try to divide it up and run it on machines with lots of processors," says Cray's Steve Conway, director of corporate communications. "We make those too, so I'm not criticizing them. But this job needs about 7 billion calculations per second"—yup, that's 7 Gigaflops!
"People buy cars now on the basis of creature comforts," he says. "But the ultimate goal for the automotive industry is more than just wind noise—it's full-fidelity crash testing, where they can simulate everything down to soft tissue damage." Just don't hold your breath waiting for this next-generation simulation—Conway says it will demand from 10 to 1,000 times more computing power than is available today.