AB Dynamics uses Formula One tech in vehicle driving simulator

AB Dynamics aVDS simulator

A vehicle driving simulator developed by AB Dynamics will be unveiled at Automotive Testing Expo in Stuttgart on 20 June 2017.

The company claims the simulator will significantly reduce development time and cost. It uses a motion platform and motion control techniques designed by Williams in its Formula One operations. Immersive digital content is provided by software supplier RFPro.

The aVDS simulator reduces latency and increases frequency response to allow more test, development and calibration tasks to be completed without a prototype vehicle.

“With a proliferation of new models and new technologies, pressure on time and budgets continues to grow,” said Adrian Simms, business manager at AB Dynamics. “Vehicle dynamics simulators help to address these challenges by providing engineers with the physical experience of driving a vehicle but in the repeatable environment of a laboratory.”

He said that until now the range of applications had been constrained by the physics of the motion platform, which had generally limited simulator use to human machine interface and ergonomic studies.

“The high performance required for vehicle dynamics applications has not been available,” he said. “Our new approach advances performance to a degree that allows much more to be achieved, extending the range of applications into many other functions that would traditionally have required a prototype vehicle. We believe this is the first system to offer a high-resolution, fully-representative driving experience, making it the first true vehicle driving simulator.”

By providing precise on-time cueing (audio, visual, haptic and vestibular), the simulator immerses the driver in the experience, creating the impression of driving. A high excursion capability ensures plenty of travel for effective motion cueing, enhancing the impression of changes in speed and direction. Low latency ensures all the driver’s senses are cued at precisely the right time. As well as increasing the realistic feel of the drive, this also helps eliminate motion sickness.

The arrangement of the motion platform means consistently high frequency response is achieved throughout the full range of travel. This ensures accurate simulation of vehicle attributes, including ride quality and steering feel, wherever the moving platform goes.

“With so many different technologies available, the challenge for engineers considering a simulator is to select and specify the best system for their application,” said Simms. “Comparing inappropriate metrics can lead to costly and incorrect choices being made, as several vehicle manufacturers have discovered. For example, where a hexapod architecture is used, impressive travel in one axis hides limited excursion in combined directions. Systems with additional mechanisms to overcome this inherent limitation will have higher mass and inertia, which is detrimental to the simulator’s performance.”

This system is said to solve these problems by mounting a vehicle cockpit on four identical wedge actuator modules mounted on two parallel rails. Quiet and lightweight linear motors control both the height of the platform on the wedge and the position of the wedge on the rail.

The platform is designed with angled sides. It is moved backwards and forwards by changing the distance between the wedges on each rail. Turning the platform is achieved by moving the front and rear actuator pairs in opposite directions along the rails. Heave, pitch and roll are controlled by moving the wedges independently to lift or lower the platform at each corner.

“Achieving a significant improvement in latency and frequency response requires a very stiff yet also lightweight system,” said Simms. “Williams has achieved this with a mechanism that is remarkably simple, enabled by a sophisticated control strategy. The result is an architecture that not only delivers a substantial step forward in capability, but is also quiet and extremely compact.”

A large radius screen wraps around the installation to provide an immersive driving environment. Software from RFPro provides high definition graphics and audio, including high frequency input to replicate measured road texture. A library of proving ground and public road models already exists and can be supplemented with bespoke lidar scans of test routes.

The software wraps around all the mainstream vehicle modelling tools and integrates programmable traffic modules, including additional robot or human drivers occupying the same environment, making it suitable for the development of active safety and adas.

The high payload capability allows a full vehicle front-end and cockpit module to be mounted on the motion platform. Alternatively, AB Dynamics can supply a lightweight, carbon composite cockpit that will increase dynamic performance.

The simulator is designed to integrate seamlessly with the company’s portfolio of test systems, for example for developing automated emergency braking, which is now part of Euro NCap testing.

AB Dynamics’ chief technology officer Stephen Neads said the aVDS was the first step in a vision that would bridge the gap between objective and subjective testing, and which provided a link between computer-based simulation, laboratory-based simulation and whole vehicle testing both in the laboratory and on the test track.

“The aVDS works very effectively as a stand-alone product, but can also be the central tool in a suite of test and development systems that increase correlation, reduce timescales and simplify development programmes,” he said.



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