The Chinese Automotive Technology and Research Centre (CATARC) has significantly expanded its vehicle development capabilities by acquiring a new, third-generation driving simulator from AB Dynamics. The Advanced Vehicle Driving Simulator (aVDS) provides the organisation with essential driver-in-the-loop testing capabilities, for developing vehicle dynamics, ride handling, ergonomics, driver behaviour, powertrain refinement and more.
The aVDS will also be an essential tool in evaluating and validating ADAS and autonomous technology. Indicative of the rate of technology advancement within the Chinese automotive industry, CATARC is the first proving ground to acquire an aVDS since the product’s launch last year.
“The use of simulators in vehicle development offers efficiency in both time and cost but it also allows us to validate autonomous technologies,” explained Gongqing Li, Vice Chief Engineer, Automotive Testing and Research Institute, CATARC.
“Investing in a third generation driving simulator is essential if we are going to undertake virtual vehicle development effectively. The versatility of the aVDS means that vehicle systems and configurations can be rapidly tested in different driving environments with a driver in the loop. This is a core requirement for future vehicle development."
CATARC went through a rigorous evaluation process to determine which driving simulator best suited its requirements and specifications. It began by shortlisting a selection of the market’s most advanced driving simulators and carried out thorough testing before selecting the capabilities of the aVDS.
“The aVDS stood out thanks to the level of driving immersion it provides,” explained Kuiyuan Guo, Director of Intelligent Driving Division, Automotive Testing and Research Institute, CATARC.
“This is one of the most important qualities in a driving simulator and is enabled by a high technical specification, such as low latency dynamics and feedback alongside precise visual, audio, haptic and vestibular cueing. We have used AB Dynamics' products for over seven years and have always found the company's level of technical support and product quality to be excellent.”
The purchase is intended to help Chinese manufacturers design and test new vehicle concepts and advanced safety systems, including autonomy. China will see an increasing need for Driver-in-the-Loop (DiL) simulation as ADAS demand rises.
The nation’s vehicle development will also be enhanced by the dynamic capability of the aVDS, enabling DiL simulation for vehicle dynamics applications that were not previously possible. Steering systems, chassis and suspension can now be modelled so that ride and handling characteristics are accurately replicated by the simulator and usefully evaluated.
With the industry’s increasing levels of AI implementation, the modern simulator can also aid the development of technologies such as AEB, ADAS and full autonomy; helping assess driver-technology interaction in a safe, virtual environment. It is also an essential tool for helping to evaluate occupant comfort and anxiety in an autonomous vehicle, as it negotiates a range of simulated traffic scenarios and roadscapes.
The aVDS has a wide range of upgrades that may be specified to provide increased immersion and capabilities. CATARC has elected to include a stereo ten projector system that enables both 2D and 3D viewing.
It will also feature AB Dynamics’ lightweight carbon fibre passenger vehicle cabin including features like programmable dashboard, interchangeable automatic and manual transmissions, a cabin audio system and rear-view mirrors with image displays.
Realistic steering feedback is provided by an active multi-function wheel, while an active brake pedal provides the driver with realistic dynamic road, ABS and braking ‘feel’ feedback.
Motion cueing is enhanced with an active seat and seat belt, providing CATARC’s customers with an even greater level of immersion. A driver monitoring system from Smart Eye is able to gauge driver fatigue, distraction and workload by tracking pupil dilation, eye movement and eyelid position. The heart rate and galvanic skin response of the driver is also monitored.
The aVDS Control Software suite includes motion platform control and motion cueing software. The ultra high resolution graphical environment and model visualisation software for the projected images is provided by rFpro. CATARC will also be provided with detailed training on the use and maintenance of the simulator along with technical assistance from AB Dynamics' specialist aVDS support team based in China.
The aVDS will be used alongside existing AB Dynamics equipment such as the SPMM (suspension parameter measurement machine), which measures the parameters used in the vehicle models, vehicle driving robots (steering and pedal) and ADAS Soft Crash Targets including GST, SPT and LaunchPad.
The equipment will allow users to take measurements of an existing vehicle or prototype and construct an accurate virtual model that can be used in simulation. They can then safely develop vehicle systems in a simulated environment before validating them on the test track using the robots and crash targets. The aVDS can also be used to evaluate early concept models before a prototype is built. CATARC’s customers can now make full use of the synergy between AB Dynamics' laboratory, track and simulation products.
“We have always been at the forefront of vehicle testing and quickly realised the importance of driver-in-the-loop simulation for future development programmes,” explained Dr Adrian Simms Business Director - Laboratory Test Systems at AB Dynamics.
“Not only can you reduce costs by avoiding early physical prototypes and mules, the aVDS also enables development to be dramatically accelerated due to the systems' versatility and accuracy. Additionally, the aVDS can be used to learn about the interaction between drivers and passengers with autonomous vehicle systems. For example, monitoring passenger comfort both in terms of physical movement like head-toss and passenger anxiety when the system conducts specific manoeuvres. It is great to see CATARC embracing these capabilities and we look forward to working with them to maximise the potential of their new aVDS.”