New surface scanning technology is being utilised by simulator software specialists, rFpro, to produce ultra-accurate digital road models. This capability allows manufacturers to tailor chassis dynamics on ‘global’ vehicles for individual markets, even before prototypes are available, significantly improving development time and costs.
“We can capture and reproduce the differences between a frost-damaged Detroit highway, a bumpy minor road in Wales, a smooth German autobahn or any other surface,” explained rFpro’s technical director, Chris Hoyle. “This means vehicle manufacturers located anywhere in the world can evaluate their vehicle’s chassis response to any road type in a realistic virtual environment, without leaving the office.”
As increasing numbers of new vehicles are designed to suit global markets, making the optimum design choices at the outset has become more challenging. Revisions to a vehicle to suit individual market tastes late in a development program can be costly, so manufacturers aim to avoid such issues by testing as early as possible. A simulator allows a human driver to experience the vehicle’s behaviour in a virtual environment, long before physical prototypes are available, but needs an accurate road model to be really useful.
To support this requirement, rFpro is exploiting a breakthrough in scanning technology to capture road surfaces with better accuracy than ever before, and up to 50 times the level of detail. The key development has been to replace the single pulse laser LIDAR time-of-flight scanning process with a number of separate, phased laser signals. Instead of waiting for each signal to return before firing the next one, the controlled phasing allows the signals to be overlapped, increasing both the speed and quantity of data captured.
The company works with a core group of regionally located scanning partners to provide global coverage. All of the partners have now added this latest phase-based scanning capability to the systems they use for rFpro’s road surveys.
“As growing numbers of vehicle makers ask us to reproduce their favourite test route surfaces, our digital road modelling workload is increasing rapidly,” said Hoyle. “In 2012 we built just over 100km; in 2014 it was more than 1000km and this year we expect to build approximately 3000km of digital road models. The new technique isn’t just more detailed; it’s also faster, which allows the scanners to drive at normal road speeds without impeding other road users.”
The growing volumes of data have led rFpro to switch to Cloud-based processing and storage, providing almost limitless scope for further growth and enabling hundreds of CPU cores to work simultaneously on data processing each project, further reducing timescales.
“Any vehicle manufacturer with an established vehicle model and simulator can benefit from the road models produced using our new digital road building capability,” said Hoyle. “Even after prototype vehicles are available, the cost and logistical challenges of testing on roads in different continents can be reduced by the strategic use of effective virtual testing.”
rFpro is a specialist software company that has developed driver-in-the-loop simulators for vehicle dynamics applications, offering the fastest video and audio pipelines, an architecture for soft-real-time model execution and an optically correct off-platform vision system optimised for motion profiles suited to ride and handling development. This specialised area of driver-in-the-loop simulation is all about closing the loop through the driver and the vehicle model as quickly as possible while delivering a high quality and immersive environment.
To deliver complete DIL simulators for the engineering development of vehicle dynamics, and the control systems and active safety systems that affect vehicle dynamics, rFactor Pro works in partnership with motion platform providers such as McLaren, Ansible Motion and MOOG. The company’s products can wrap around vehicle models from all the popular modelling environments, including Dymola, SIMPACK, Simulink, AVL-VSM, CarSim, CarMaker, LMS AMESim, VI-Grade and C/C++.