McLaren Applied Technologies

The TAG-400 electronic control unit is one of the most versatile and successful products to bear the McLaren name. Specialised variants of it are used by competitors in IndyCar, NASCAR, GT and the inaugural Formula E Championship – so it’s something of a surprise to learn that the project’s original brief didn’t involve cars at all.

Chris Penny, team leader for Embedded Systems at McLaren Applied Technologies, says: “When we started designed the initial TAG-400,our expectation was that it would be for motorbike application. That’s one of the things that drove its shape and the connector positioning, because we thought it would sit underneath the saddle with the harnesses coming down through the chassis. But this didn’t turn out to be its main application – though it did subsequently get used in MotoGP.”

The TAG-400 first proved its mettle in the Indy Racing League, controlling Honda engines. Soon afterwards, a new product based on the unit showed its potential to be modified for use in specialised roles. Chris says: “We designed a product called the EDR-400 – that’s Enhanced Data Recorder – that leveraged the core digital architecture and software of the TAG-400 and added a GPS and on-board telemetry system. It just needed a little additional hardware, and it was used in American Le Mans for a couple of years.”

McLaren Applied Technologies was soon approached to develop a new, bespoke version of the TAG-400. Chris says: “IndyCar gave us the specifications for a new unit they wanted to run from 2012, which was a fairly tight timescale. We took the decision there to modify the TAG-400 – we needed a bit more I/O and processing power but we didn’t have the time or the need to change core functions like logging and basic communications.

“The result was the TAG-400i – which, if you open it up, is very similar internally to the TAG-400. For example, it has three rather than two connectors, but two of them are identical to the ones on the original unit. So you could basically plug in your existing harnesses on a TAG-400i and use it just like a TAG-400.”

The unique architecture of the unit means that its use has not been confined to the racetrack. The two IndyCar engine manufacturers  both found further applications for the TAG-400i. “Both Honda and Ilmor-Chevrolet used the TAG-400i in other sports-car and GT projects, as well as in research,” says Chris. “The reason they could do this is that the unit – like all our race units – can be used as a full solution with application code provided by McLaren Applied Technologies, or you can write your own code for the unit using our Graphical Development Environment, and then put it into any application you desire.”

You've selected 1 product, please select at least 1 more to start comparing.

You've selected {$ vm.basketTotal $} products, you can compare up to {$ vm.basketMax $} products.

You've selected the maximum of {$ vm.basketMax $} products.

Compare Compare