Just Like Being There

Simulated Driving

Larry Jewett - July 29, 2014 03:14 PM

ImageCourtesy of rFpro
ImageCourtesy of rFpro

Image 1 of 2


      Specialist software company rFpro has modelled the entire Nordschleife circuit at the Nürburgring, Germany, with an accuracy never before achieved. The data has been incorporated into the company’s latest simulation software, TerrainServer, and allows real chassis engineering development in a virtual environment with every bump, kerb, ripple and camber from the actual track.
      “Established simulator technology is fine for driver training in terms of which way the corners go but limited for use in vehicle development,” explained rFpro’s technical director, Chris Hoyle. “Our model of the Nordschleife sets a new standard, enabling customers to carry out suspension tuning or the development of chassis systems such as stability control with a simulator, and arrive at the circuit with a better optimised package.”
      Over four man-years of effort were required just to update the graphics to support the new model, indicating the scale of the engineering achievement in mapping such a long circuit (over 20.8km). Surveying was carried out by 3D Mapping Solutions GmbH with state-of-the-art phase-based LIDAR laser imaging technology resolving the entire track surface (over 250,000 m2) in 3D with an accuracy better than 1mm in Z (height) and 1cm in X and Y (position). This represents a ten-fold improvement over the resolution previously available. 
      Having an accurate digital circuit model of a track that you visit regularly provides benefits both for your real car testing and for your simulation, according to Hoyle. “Simulation is nothing without correlation against real test data in order to update and improve the mathematical vehicle models,” he said. “At the same time, simulation allows more effective preparation for the real tests so vehicle developers can achieve more during their test window; essentially the two approaches benefit each other.”  Back at base, on the simulator, OEMs also benefit from the ability to speed up development by testing all year round, 24 hours a day, regardless of weather or track availability, on a consistent and repeatable road surface, and from improved confidentiality through keeping secret prototypes hidden until later in the development cycle.
       The method of data capture, using technology mounted on a small SUV, means the process can also be applied to public roads, whether urban, rural or inter-city highways, allowing vehicle makers to simulate specific road surface types and features. This means new models can be evaluated over the kinds of terrain found in different continents, ensuring compatibility with specific market conditions long before physical prototypes exist.
       To view a video, go here.