The vehicle dynamics sector has again shown impressive work across engineering, innovation, technology and teamwork, as reflected in the shortlist for this year’s Vehicle Dynamics International Awards. The quality of the contenders made for tough evaluation by the international judging panel, with some very tight results, but five worthy winners emerged. Let’s take a look…
• Choi Joo-sik, Autocar Korea
• Robert Bielecki, Oponeo, Poland
• Christophe Congrega, L’Automobile Magazine, France
• Brian Cowan, freelance, New Zealand
• Carl Cunanan: C!, Philippines
• Padraic Deane, managing editor, Automotive Publications, Ireland
• Tarcisio Dias de Araujo, Mecânica Online, Brazil
• Jim Kenzie, Toronto Star, Canada
• Nikos Kounitis, 4Wheels, Auto Bild Hellas, Greece
• Nicol Louw, Car South Africa
• Marco Marelli, freelance, Italy
• Frank Markus, Motor Trend, USA
• Marc Noordeloos, freelance, USA
• Sergio Oliveira de Melo, El Informador, Mexico
• Phil Morse, Energy Balance, USA
• Tomaz Porekar, Avto Magazin, Slovenia
• Alvaro Sauras Alonso, Autofacil and CAR&Tecno, Spain
• Mohamad Sheta, Al-Masry Al-Youm Newspaper, Auto Arabia, Middle East Auto News Agency
• Gábor Szécsényi, Az Autó and Retro Mobil, Hungary
• Oleg Vasilevsky, Auto Bild, Ukraine
• Adam Gavine, Vehicle Dynamics International, UK
• Hormazd Sorabjee, Autocar India
• Jürgen Zöllter – freelance, Germany
Car of the Year
Which new vehicles impressed most with their dynamics setups? The finalists spanned a wide range of vehicle types and price points, with only a sliver between the top three places – which represented the highest and lowest-priced vehicles in the finals.
Winner: Range Rover
The Range Rover is always an interesting dynamics proposition, balancing the highest levels of on-road luxury with true off-road ability. The 2022 Range Rover is packed with innovation – indeed Land Rover filed some 125 patents for the technology and engineering introduced in this model. The car’s combination of advanced hardware, digital technologies and software, and an advanced electrical architecture moves the basis of the Range Rover from the mechanical to a mechatronic ecosystem.
This fifth-generation model is based on Land Rover’s new flexible Modular Longitudinal Architecture (MLA-Flex), with different metals used in different areas to minimise weight while creating a body that is up to 50% stiffer than the previous model, achieving a static torsional stiffness of 33kNm/deg. The engineering team says this architecture provides the perfect foundation for the new advanced chassis systems developed to optimise ride quality and off-road capability.
At the heart of these systems is Integrated Chassis Control, a single control system that manages the various dynamics technologies. Among those technologies is the intelligent All-Wheel Drive (iAWD) transmission, controlled by Land Rover’s Intelligent Driveline Dynamics (IDD) system, which monitors grip levels and driver inputs 100 times a second to predictively distribute torque between the front and rear axles, and across the rear axle (Land Rover’s first ever five-link rear axle), for optimum traction on and off-road. Stability is also aided by the standard-fit Active Locking Rear Differential, which acts as an open differential and works with the Torque Vectoring by Braking system to optimise traction from the rear axle during high-speed cornering, on low-traction surfaces and during off-road wheel articulation.
The Adaptive Dynamics intelligent air suspension also aids the pre-emptive systems, using eHorizon Navigation data to read the road ahead and prime the suspension for an appropriate response such as reducing body roll or pitching. The system senses the road 500 times per second and monitors a range of data to calculate the optimum damper settings and adjust the individual dampers to enhance control and comfort. Those dampers are twin-valve Bilstein active monotubes, managed by the in-house-developed Adaptive Dynamics control software, and can react to inputs within 12ms. Two continuously variable valves inside each damper adjust the damping force; one for the initial upwards movement, the other to control the forces generated during the downward rebound phase.
Debuting on the 2022 model is Dynamic Response Pro, an active 48V electronic active roll-control system claimed to be faster-acting and more efficient than a hydraulic set-up, with a torque capacity of up to 1,400Nm fed into the anti-roll bars to keep body movements under control – with 900Nm available within 200ms. The technology manages body roll from lateral acceleration by continually optimising the damping forces on the front and rear anti-roll bars, working with other chassis systems. The light weight and efficiency of the electrified system also provides a claimed CO2 saving of up to 8g/km compared to the previous hydraulic systems fitted to the Range Rover.
The 2022 model also features all-wheel steering , with the electrically operated rear axle steering providing up to 7.3° of steering angle. At low speeds, the rear wheels turn out-of-phase with the front wheels for enhanced agility, which also enables a turning circle of less than 11m – the tightest of any Land Rover model. At speeds above 50km/h the rear axle turns in-phase with the front wheels, for stability. All-wheel steering also enhances all-terrain performance, assisting drivers when steering out of ruts, or maintaining a straight path on softer surfaces.
The 1989 Range Rover was the first 4×4 to be fitted with ABS. The innovation continues with the 2022 model, which is the first vehicle in the world to combine brake-by-wire technology with Active Brake Cooling. The active brake cooling ducts optimise aerodynamics by only opening when additional brake cooling is required – improving aerodynamic performance by a claimed 6% – while lightweight brake discs contribute to both improved lifecycle emissions (up to 80kg reduction in CO2 equivalent across the lifetime of the vehicle) and driving dynamics by minimising unsprung mass.
The off-road ability is enhanced by the Terrain Response 2 system, which can handle everything from deep water wading to steep icy inclines by harnessing all of the vehicle chassis systems – from the iAWD, Dynamic Response Pro and All-Wheel Steering to the Electronic Air Suspension, brakes and electric power steering – to provide the optimal vehicle settings for the conditions.
Even the development programme for the 2022 Range Rover was innovative, it being the first Land Rover model to have undergone virtual simulator testing to perform initial prototype testing. Over the course of three years, Land Rover engineers matched Formula 1 levels of simulator use and virtual development and even mapped local roads around the Gaydon headquarters as part of this process. More than 140,000 hours of computational analysis was conducted prior to physical testing, reducing the number of real-world development miles required by the fleet of physical prototypes. Those prototypes underwent a punishing global test and development programme, taking in extreme temperatures ranging from the 45C heat of the desert to the -30C cold of the Arctic.
Land Rover’s most refined and intelligent capability yet, using one of the most advanced combinations of chassis technologies ever fitted to a production vehicle.” Scott Higgins, senior manager of vehicle engineering, Jaguar Land Rover
“From city to tundra, whether for explorer or banker, the new Range Rover really is a car that can satisfy everyone. It’s a worthy winner of the Car of the Year category.” Adam Gavine, chairman, Vehicle Dynamics International Awards
There were few points to separate the Range Rover from the second-placed car, the fourth-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The car features a new, dynamically configured suspension with a four-link axle at the front and a multi-link axle at the rear, mounted to a subframe. The 2022 C-Class is the first vehicle to feature Tenneco’s Monroe MCx valving system for passive vehicle damping. When the MCx is integrated with Monroe monotube dampers, the valve’s independent and parallel flow paths can accommodate all piston velocities, allowing the comfort and dynamic control of the setup to be tuned. The valve also offers open-bleed tuning capability, which creates two additional tuning parameters in rebound and compression. These parameters can be used for rolling comfort and the elimination of ultra-low-velocity vibrations.
The model is made extra agile and stable with the optional rear-axle steering and the accompanying, more direct steering ratio at the front axle. At speeds below 60 km/h, the rear wheels steer in the opposite direction to the front wheels, which virtually shortens the wheelbase, aiding manoeuvrability and agility. At speeds above 60 km/h, the rear wheels steer up to 2.5° in the same direction as the front wheels, virtually lengthening the wheelbase for improved handling stability and safety.
“The driving manners of the C-Class are just as refined as those of the big sports cars from the brand, but here it comes without the usual extra bells and whistles – and of course the weight.” Gábor Szécsényi, Az Autó and Retro Mobil, Hungary
Again, there was little to separate the C-Class from the 2022 Civic, which Honda is the most fun-to-drive Civic in the model’s nearly 50-year history. The body structure is the most rigid yet for the model, with an 8% improvement in torsional rigidity and 13% improvement in bending rigidity versus the previous generation car, supporting improvements in ride, handling and NVH.
The structure of this 11th-generation version uses Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) to meet present and anticipated future collision standards while minimising weight. This is achieved through the extensive use of lightweight materials, such as aluminium and various grades of high-strength steel, as well as an expanded application of structural adhesives. A highlight is the all-new aluminium front subframe with an efficient truss and rib structure for rigidity and stability. The Civic’s suspension has been tuned to take maximum advantage of the stiffer body structure and additional 1.4in of wheelbase for a smoother ride and sporty handling.
The front MacPherson struts feature new low-friction ball joints and front damper mount bearings to improve steering feel and self-centring, and the spring and damper alignment has been optimised to minimise operational friction. At the rear, the track is 0.5in wider for enhanced stability, with a new, larger compliance bushing with an improved bushing axis to minimise harshness. Additionally, the two rear lower arms are equipped with a new bushing that reduces NVH inside the cabin, while also promoting better straight-line stability and turn in. The electronic power steering has been re-tuned to provide better feedback and improved straight-line stability.
Honda says the suspension and steering upgrades result in a smoother, more linear and more precise feel in turns, with the reduction in yaw delay leading to a more responsive and synchronised feeling behind the wheel.
What the judges said about the 2022 Civic:
“When it comes to ranking cars with great dynamics setups, it’s easy to overlook the Honda Civic. I guess that’s because of its ubiquity. But if you love to drive – meaning you’re keen on pointing a car somewhere and having it actually go there – the 2022 Civic can’t be overlooked. By focusing on the fundamentals – improvements in the model’s structural rigidity, suspension K&C and so on – Honda delivers the goods: nimble handling and smooth ride, connected via driver controls that communicate what’s happening down at the contact patches with some honesty. You can even have yourself a 6-speed manual transmission. Sign me up.” Phil Morse, Energy Balance, USA
“It is nice to see the car on the shortlist that will end up in the most garages still show such emphasis on development and forward thinking. Not just the big things but the small details like rolling resistance of wheel bearings.” Carl Cunanan: C!, Philippines
“The combination of high driving comfort, precise handling and functionality including the integration of assist systems is perfect. It’s all in all a perfect car for daily mobility – even if it not an EV.” Jürgen Zöllter, freelance, Germany
“No more boring EV’s” is the mantra at Zeekr, which has launched its first model, the 001. The 001 electric shooting brake is based on Geely Holding’s global electric architecture, with Tenneco’s CVSAe electronic air suspension automatically adjusting ground clearance from 117mm to 205mm based on user requirements (including off-road use).
The eMotors at the axles offer maximum output of 400Kw, creating over 700Nm of torque in an instant, which can be equally spread to all four corners of the 001. Indeed the performance of the 001 is not boring, with a top speed of over 200km/h, a 0-100km/h time of just 3.8 seconds, and braking from 100km/h to 0 needing just 34m. At launch, two battery packs will be offered to consumers; 86kWh and 100kWh.
Nissan debuted its CMF-EV platform, a dedicated EV architecture, on the Nissan Ariya all-electric coupé-crossover. The CMF-EV platform will form the basis for 15 electric models across the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance by 2030. The Nissan team informally refer to the platform as a “magic flying carpet”, a modular design that creates a flat platform upon which cabin space can be enlarged and rethought. Placeholders for electric motors are plotted directly adjacent to the front and rear axles, while the battery packs are designed to be as slim as possible, forming a structural support system for the platform.
Nissan offers the CMF-EV platform with multiple specification options of power units and drivetrains – including a single-motor offering and dual-motor e-4ORCE configuration. e-4ORCE is Nissan’s most advanced all-wheel control technology, which generates precise motor and braking inputs to balance performance with control, and also minimises vehicle pitch under braking, optimising brake balance between the front and rear to provide a stable, smooth ride.
Dynamics Team of the Year
From developing dynamics innovations to applying them to production vehicles, this category recognises the work of OEM and consultancy dynamics teams around the world.
The latest dynamics work by the team at Mercedes-Benz has been released over the year, with the all-new Mercedes-Benz GLC, EQS SUV, EQE SUV, and some interesting new work. The team worked together on the GLC to develop a new four-link suspension at the front and a multi-link independent rear suspension mounted to a subframe. The standard suspension provides a high level of ride and noise comfort, and agile handling, while the AMG Line specification features sports suspension as standard and the plug-in hybrids all have air suspension and level control at the rear axle as standard.
The EQS SUV, the third model to share the EQS architecture developed for EVs, has an electric drivetrain (eATS) on the rear axle, and the versions with 4MATIC also have an eATS on the front axle. In the 4MATIC models, the Torque Shift function ensures continuously variable distribution of drive torque between the rear and front electric motors and thus the use of the most efficient eATS in each case. The chassis of the EQS SUV has a four-link axle at the front and an independent multi-link suspension at the rear (as does the EQE), with Airmatic air suspension with continuously adjustable damping ADS+ as standard equipment. Furthermore, rear-axle steering with a steering angle of up to 4.5 degrees is standard, for manoeuvrability in the city and agility over land. Optionally and also via an OTA update, a version with up to 10 degrees steering angle is available, with other OTA updates available including Trailer Manoeuvring Assist or MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) Augmented Reality Navigation.
The team are also working beyond the EQS in EV development, with the Vision EQXX is a rethinking of vehicle fundamentals from the ground up, including advances across all elements of its electric drivetrain as well as the use of lightweight engineering and sustainable materials and advanced software. Mercedes-Benz regards the Vision EQXX as the future of electric cars, and the new direction for the company.
In other work, Mercedes-Benz has become the first OEM to meet the legal requirements of UN-R157 for an SAE Level 3 driving system, which is being launched in the Drive Pilot system on the S-Class. The system will enable driving in conditionally automated mode at speeds of up to 60km/h in heavy traffic or congested situations on suitable stretches of motorway. The LiDAR-based Drive Pilot system can enable a new type of driving pleasure, as it can enable the driver to perform ancillary tasks on the central display such as online shopping or processing e-mails in the in-car office. The system is initially being offered for use on 13,191km of motorway in Germany, with extensive test drives for the systems underway for use in other territories such as the USA and China. The S-Class with Drive Pilot also has redundant steering and braking systems and a redundant on-board electrical system, so that it remains manoeuvrable even if one of these systems fails and control is handed over to the driver.
Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE)
Following the launch of WAE’s EVX modular lightweight platform, its dynamics team is developing EVR, an ultra-high performance yet cost-effective EV platform which is being made available to OEMs as a rolling chassis to help reduce their vehicle development times. The EVR platform is focused on the growing electric hypercar sector, with a lightweight composite structure that mounts the high-performance battery system in the middle of the vehicle, optimising the centre of gravity. EVR can support a range of vehicle configurations, from track-only vehicles where power-to-weight is maximised, to roadgoing models, whether open-roof targa or fixed-roof GT architectures. This is made possible by the architecture’s central tub, which has been designed to allow for such flexibility, including open-roofed designs, whilst still enabling performance technology such as active aerodynamics.
The WAE team has also completed its TE-1 electric motorcycle development project for Triumph, with a 161km/100mile range,130kW (177PS/175bhp) peak power, 0-60mph in 3.6 seconds, 0-100mph in 6.2 seconds, a 20-minute charge time (0-80%), and at 220kg, the bike is up to 25% lighter than comparable electric motorcycles. The design also features regenerative braking.
The dynamics team has also been working in the electric motorsport sector, from Formula E and Extreme E, to ETCR and LMDh, and has also worked closely with IM Motors in China, to gain an understanding of both its brand DNA and local road conditions to develop the IM L7 saloon, delivering media quoted “best-in-class” dynamics for the Chinese market.
What the judges said:
“Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE) unapologetically recognises its motorsport-derived strengths and delivers on them. Those strengths include electrification, dynamics-driven vehicle design and low-volume manufacturing. Projects such as the EVX, EVR and Triumph’s TE-1 electric motorcycle are innovative, to say the least, and make WAE a company to watch – and work with, if you’re smart.” Phil Morse, Energy Balance, USA
“A system that takes advantage of the flexibility and modularity available to modern vehicle design heads to provide solutions to the most exciting of platforms.” Carl Cunanan: C!, Philippines
“Most flexible EV platforms will push down (additional to the development costs) the market price of EVs in order make also medium size and small EVs affortable for a wide range of customers.” Jürgen Zöllter, freelance, Germany
Gordon Murray Group
Gordon Murray Group has tripled in size since 2020 and is targeting similar growth in the next three years through three key measures: reorganising its leadership, creating a new Technology Division, and establishing new facilities in the UK and the US. Those facilities will be home to a rapidly expanding workforce at the group which, by the end of 2022, will have quadrupled in numbers in just two years. The Group recently opened a facility in Warwick, UK that takes advantage of the automotive skills in the area, and is constructing a new £50M global headquarters and technology campus in Surrey, UK, due for completion by 2024. The company is also looking at opening more facilities in the USA.
The reorganisation sees Gordon Murray Group split into two new divisions: Gordon Murray Technology and Gordon Murray Automotive. The technology division is made up of Gordon Murray Design and Gordon Murray Electronics, and has been incorporated to serve global automotive companies for every aspect of vehicle development, design and manufacturing. Gordon Murray Technology is already developing lightweight EVs, including two advanced all-electric SUVs (one for “a major car manufacturer”), and the division in advanced discussions with global automotive businesses for future projects.
Meanwhile the dynamics team at Gordon Murray Automotive has been very busy creating supercars, which despite high price tags have each sold out quickly: the T.50, T.50s track car and T.33. All these projects use the proprietary and innovative iStream manufacturing processes, which make both vehicle design and assembly more efficient.
Both the Gordon Murray Automotive and Gordon Murray Technology divisions adhere to seven key principles to ensure that projects and products embody the ethos of the group and offer performance, energy efficiency, design, innovation and sustainability. The principles are: driving perfection, performance through light-weighting, engineering excellence, sustainable mobility, disruptive technologies, low-energy solutions, and innovation by design.
“You need only look at the drivelines in the T series to understand the innovation.” Gábor Szécsényi, Az Autó and Retro Mobil, Hungary
Jaguar Land Rover
Through late 2021 and into 2022, Jaguar Land Rover’s Chassis and Dynamics team launched two vehicles back to back with more chassis mechatronic and motion control innovation than at any other time in the company’s history. The vehicles combine a motion control platform (hardware and software designed in-house) that controls driveline, active damping, active roll and rear-wheel steering, with the latest in hardware and mechatronic systems.
The new Range Rover and Range Rover Sport deliver class-leading comfort and refinement whilst being able to deliver leading off-road capability and load carrying / towing capability. The positioning of these cars and the breadth of their capability bring some unique challenges to chassis design and tuning of vehicle character.
The team were able to integrate this technology and show how they can ultimately massively change the character of the car for pitch, roll and head-toss behaviour by unleashing the power of twin-valve active damping.
Interestingly the team also created tunes and evaluated stability tunes using their full vehicle simulator – for example, roll distribution was extensively simulated and then flashed straight into the car. Also, while the team were tuning in the UK on Warwickshire roads and in Spain undergoing high-load, high-speed validation, their manoeuvres were able to be simulated on the driver simulator, so that the UK road tune was also evaluated for limit behaviour on a sim for every iteration of tune – and then wired to our European test facilities and physically signed off the next day.
Innovation of the Year
This category recognises good design and technology in the vehicle itself. The panel considered hardware, software, engineering and computing innovations that can be applied to advance and enhance vehicle dynamic setups.
WINNER: ZF Vehicle Motion Control platform
A car’s ride and handling characteristics are largely defined by its chassis. Wheel guidance, damping, suspension, steering and brakes help determine the character of a vehicle, and the trend toward the electrification and software control of these systems (both piloted and autonomous) continues to accelerate. In response ZF has launched a high-performance computing platform – the Vehicle Motion Domain (VMD) Controller – to help OEMs create distinctive dynamic setups, with a central computer adaptable for all types of chassis platforms, vehicle motion and body functions, next-generation software-defined cars, and future domain and zone E/E architectures.
The controller is designed to integrate vehicle functions across domains including body and power management, and to support standalone functionality while reducing complexity by using a single controller for intelligent vehicle motion control. The VMD Controller serves the software-defined vehicle trend with real-time functions and applications, with a high-performance threshold of 55,000 DMIPS (draystone million instructions per second).
For a higher level of automation, the controller can be connected to ZF ProAI, ZF’s computing platform for ADAS/AD applications. According to ZF the intelligence of future vehicles is likely to be controlled by a few extremely powerful central computers such as the VMD and the ProAI controllers. These computers run the computationally intensive software functions that control critical vehicle domains and help enable functions for automated driving, electric mobility, vehicle motion control and integrated safety. High-performance computers and intelligent software functions are key enablers for the software-defined vehicles of the future and can help bring safe and smart mobility experiences to contemporary consumers.
This video shows how ZF’s Vehicle Motion Domain (VMD) Controller works.
“The integration of multiple functions in one central control unit is key to a perfect working together of all systems. And such a powerful central control unit is well prepared for integration into future (upcoming) new systems.” Jürgen Zöllter, freelance, Germany
Vibracoustic hydro-levelling technology
While air springs and complex actuators are extremely effective, they are typically too complex and costly to fit to non-luxury or smaller vehicles. Vibracoustic has developed a hydro levelling system that it says brings the benefits of ride height adjustability at lower cost to new market segments, being suitable for front or rear-axle applications and enabling ride height adjustability of lower segment cars, including smaller EVs.
The system consists of a hydraulic actuator, a dedicated ECU, height sensors and a powerpack (pump, tank, valves). The system offers a levelling speed of 10mm per second in two-corner applications, operating when the vehicle is static.
The company has produced a fully operational prototype of the hydro levelling system (integrated into a popular European C-segment vehicle) that delivers 40mm of travel at each wheel, but that travel can be adjusted for each vehicle case. When used as rear-axle application, Vibracoustic says the system can compensate for trunk loading, deliver improved comfort, and maintain ground clearance for fully loaded vehicles, adjust the angle of stall for improved battery cooling of EVs, or provide a more comfortable loading / unloading position. When applied to both the front and rear-axle, it can additionally adjust ground clearance for speed bumps and driveways, or lower the vehicle for high-speed driving to reduce drag and increase range.
Prototype testing highlighted that the hydro levelling system in a C-segment vehicle “substantially” improved the ride and comfort metrics of a loaded vehicle. Tested under rough road conditions of different amplitudes and frequencies, Vibracoustic claims the system offered “large comfort improvements” at low frequencies of up to 15Hz due to reductions in road-induced excitations.
“Adjustability and tuneability made more available and hopefully more reliable for more users.” Carl Cunanan: C!, Philippines
“Vibracoustic could have stopped with the development of its clever hydraulic actuator, a device that serves as an adjustable spring seat, but it did not. It developed an entire turn-key solution for a vehicle ride height levelling and management system. In doing so, Vibracoustic arrived at a simple, cost-efficient offering. In the Chinese and Brazilian markets, for example, where adjustable ride height is a sought-after feature in passenger cars, this opens up exciting possibilities, because it’s essentially a premium-level offering that could be offered in smaller, entry-level vehicles, including smaller EVs.” Phil Morse, Energy Balance, USA
Monroe RideRefine Hydraulic Compression Stop (HCS)
Tenneco developed the HCS to support OEMs’ electrification and vehicle lightweighting strategies. HCS, a tuneable end-stop technology, is designed to improve ride comfort, NVH and body control by enabling a better trade-off between ride height and end-stroke compression damping. The technology increases damping force within the ‘HCS zone’ near the end of the compression stroke and allows reduction of damping force near the middle of the stroke, improving overall ride comfort and refinement, especially in high-impact road events such as driving over kerbs and potholes.
This controlled peak end-stop force could help OEMs reduce the structural requirements of vehicles that typically carry heavier loads – including EVs with battery packs – and/or have limited ground clearance. The HCS can also help optimise vehicles equipped with large tyres, such as SUV and Crossover models, which can generate high end-stop loads. According to Tenneco, tests of the system on a leading luxury SUV platform showed a reduction in bottoming load of up to 30% compared to dampers without HCS.
Autonomous vehicles (AVs) can struggle to achieve precise positioning during challenging adverse weather, with weather such as rain or snow sometimes causing an AV to detect itself in the wrong lane before a turn, or to stop too late at an intersection because of imprecise positioning. Researchers at Oxford University’s Department of Computer Science in the UK, in collaboration with colleagues from Bogazici University in Turkey, have developed a novel artificial intelligence (AI) system designed to help enable AVs achieve safer and more reliable navigation capability, especially under adverse weather conditions and GPS-denied driving scenarios. The precise positioning capability provides a basis for numerous core functionalities of AVs such as motion planning, prediction, situational awareness, and collision avoidance.
Key to the technology is a self-supervised deep-learning model for ego-motion estimation, which brings together richly detailed information from visual sensors (which can be disrupted by adverse conditions) with data from weather-immune sources (such as radar), so that the benefits of each can be used under different weather conditions.
This video shows how the system works.
The model has been trained using several publicly available AV datasets, including data from multiple sensors such as cameras, lidar, and radar under diverse settings, such as variable light/darkness levels and precipitation. These settings were used to generate algorithms to reconstruct scene geometry and calculate the car’s position from novel data. The researchers say that, under various test situations, they demonstrated that the model showed robust all-weather performance, including conditions of rain, fog and snow, as well as day and night.
The team anticipate that this work will bring AVs one step closer to safe and smooth all-weather autonomous driving, and ultimately their broader use.
Development Tool of the Year
Developing a great dynamic setup requires great tools. This category rewards the latest tools that help vehicle dynamics engineers evaluate their designs and setups to achieve automotive excellence. Everything from simulation to durability assessment, software to lab machinery, to dynamometers and more is eligible.
WINNER: Ansible Motion Delta series S3
Ansible Motion describes its Delta series S3 Driver-in-the-Loop (DIL) simulator as its “most sophisticated and versatile simulator to date”. According to the company, the technology is capable of validating the megatrends of electrification, autonomy, driver assistance, HMI and vehicle dynamics by enabling high-fidelity, high-dynamic, human-centric vehicle simulations in a single virtual environment.
A key enabler of the Delta S3’s dynamic capabilities is the AML SMS2 Stratiform Motion System, designed and manufactured in-house, which is capable of full 360° dynamic yaw rotations, with a set of engineered linear rails – scalable from 4 to 10m in length – that enable sustained, independent sway and surge motions. The system can deliver acceleration beyond 1G, velocities above 5m/s and strong frequency response, for an immersive and representative experience when simulating manoeuvres such as aggressive lane changing and autonomous parking.
The system has a scalable architecture so that customers can specify various size options, to suit a broad range of automotive product development use cases such as expert driver assessments, chassis dynamics, powertrain driveability, ADAS and active safety function calibration, V2X studies and HMI design evaluations.
Ansible Motion has also developed a new mechanism for carrying the vehicle cabin, which offers a further three degrees of freedom (heave, pitch and roll) to the vehicle motion profile. The design enables a vehicle cabin up to 500kg to be exercised dynamically in all six degrees of freedom (the maximum possible for defining the motion of a body), at any point, avoiding the need for complex interactions between multiple motion controllers.
One particularly noteworthy feature is that users in the lab can connect the simulator with a powertrain located anywhere in the world and evaluate how it works with a vehicle. The Delta S3 uses the latest version of Ansible Motion’s AML DDB Distributed Data Bus, a synchronous real-time computing environment with open and modular software architecture that enables connectivity to the external simulation environments and Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL) test benches required for drivetrain development. Effectively, this means that engineers and evaluators can ‘drive’ a car with a brand-new combustion engine (ICE) or electric powertrain unit that may be operating on a dyno in a completely different location.
The company has secured orders with BMW, Continental, Honda R&D, and Deakin University in Australia.
“Ansible Motion has been a serious player in DiL simulation for many years. While its automotive simulators have been highly regarded in terms of their quality and unique performance capabilities, they’ve always been medium-sized and seemed rather modest in scale. The company’s latest Delta series S3 changes all that. The Delta S3’s motion space, delivered by the AML SMS2 Stratiform Motion System, is big. Really big. With 360° dynamic yaw rotations, and ground excursions up to 10 x 10m, we’re talking about 1-to-1 motion cueing compared to real-world for double lane changes and other aggressive manoeuvres. That’s impressive. If Ansible Motion has been able to maintain its standards of excellence for nuanced performance at this scale, then Delta series S3 may be a game changer in DIL space.” Phil Morse, Energy Balance, USA
Drive System Design
The quiet cabins of EVs mean that drivers and passengers are more aware of NVH during journeys. However, when developing a vehicle, NVH issues are often only identified late in programmes because highly integrated electric drive units (EDUs) with complex interactions between multiple components make it challenging to predict and identify the source of NVH issues. Such late identification of issues can create delays and extra costs, so it is important that they are identified before committing to physical prototypes.
Drive System Design (DSD), has developed a simulation method that can highlight potential NVH issues of EDUs while the design is still in the model stage. The system-level modelling approach uses component and sub-system correlation tests to simulate NVH behaviour. DSD says the approach can accurately model anisotropic components and complex joints, which is critical to understanding how individual components interact at a system level. The company adds that the approach has been used successfully on current development projects to identify NVH issues that would have otherwise been missed at this stage.
“It surprises many how noisy EV cabins can be when you don’t hear engine noise. This system hopes to solve problems before they appear, or rather before they are actually heard.” Carl Cunanan: C!, Philippines
rFpro digital twin of Nardò
Simulation software company, rFpro, has developed a highly accurate virtual model of the handling track at Nardò Technical Center in Italy. The way an electrified powertrain interacts with the chassis is significantly different to that of a traditional engine, so the digital twin will enable vehicle manufacturers to accelerate development of next-generation EV platforms by testing them in a fully representative virtual environment so the design, including suspension, steering and braking, is mature before the results are correlated and validated on the track, helping them make more productive use of their track time.
The digital-twin of the Nardò handling circuit will allow engineers to assess and benchmark vehicle performance quantitively at the start of the design cycle. This includes optimising the trade-off between motor type and size against battery sizing to meet range and acceleration targets. It also facilitates driver-in-the-loop simulations for additional subjective assessments, such as ride and handling.
The 6.2km-long handling track features a 1km straight and 16 corners of varying radius and speed. Its layout, which includes crests, bumps and kerbs, makes it ideal for developing new chassis technologies.
To be effective as a development tool, the digital twin has to correlate accurately with this complex circuit. rFpro is using phase-based laser scanning survey data to create models with an accuracy of around 1mm in Z (height) and in X and Y (position). The TerrainServer surface model has been used to create high-definition surfaces. By capturing detailed surface information that is missed by point-based sampling methods, TerrainServer allows very high correlation with the actual road surfaces used during physical testing. This enables the use of the digital model for vehicle dynamics applications, even allowing ride and secondary ride experiments to be conducted by real-time models on driving simulators.
Monolith, an artificial intelligence (AI) software company, has developed a platform designed to lower the development times of new cars by reducing the number of time- and cost-intensive tests involved. Automotive companies typically use a combination of life-like virtual simulations and physical testing during vehicle development.
For each design iteration, a simulation solves the physics that underpin the system’s modelling, which can be a difficult and computationally intensive process. Virtual simulations help reduce the number of physical tests required, but the accuracy and fidelity of the results can be limited. Numerous physical tests are therefore still needed to calibrate and validate the virtual results, as well as to understand performance in operating conditions that cannot be simulated. Monolith is already being used by companies such as BMW, Honda and, Rolls Royce in areas such as vehicle dynamics, aerodynamics, and tests of wheels and tyres, durability, crash and powertrains.
Monolith’s software uses self-learning models to predict the results of complex vehicle dynamics systems, reducing the need for physical tests or simulations, an approach that Monolith says will “dramatically accelerate” every stage of the automotive development process, from initial design and design iterations, to validation and production. The system also means fewer physical prototypes are required, and less travel to specialist test sites and on-road testing routes is needed, making the latter stages of validation safer and more sustainable. The system is also designed to be easy to use, with a ‘no-code’ platform that instead uses interactive dashboards.
Monolith’s method uses the significant volumes of valuable data created by virtual and physical tests, which is often underutilised. Instead, this data – even years’ worth of existing test data – can be leveraged to train highly accurate AI self-learning models to instantly predict the performance of systems by understanding their behaviour from data, instead of solving the complex physics of the system, or performing a physical test.
“The ever-shorter development times (especially for EVs) cause a lot of problems after new cars have gone on sale. One reason is the dramatically reduced physical testing time. It looks like Monolith’s new platform can overcome (or at least reduce) this problem.” Jürgen Zöllter, freelance, Germany
Test Facility of the Year
The panel considered the most impressive new developments and investments at proving grounds and test tracks, as well as facilities offering the use of dynamics test equipment.
WINNER: Horiba MIRA
Horiba MIRA has opened Assured CAV, a proving ground it claims is Europe’s most comprehensive ecosystem for connected and automated vehicle (CAV) engineering and testing. The 350-hectare (850 acre) facility is located in Nuneaton in the UK, and provides access to a diverse range of physical and virtual environments that replicate real-world scenarios to validate the challenges of implementing connected self-driving technologies.
The facility has been in development for four years at a cost of £100 million and includes full journey environments including high speed, urban, parking and CAV-enabled public road trial environments. The high-speed environment is titled Highway, and is a completely level facility with a 300m diameter dynamic platform to test vehicles at their limit; the City zone is a controllable and configurable, connected urban and sub-urban driving environment; the dedicated multi-storey car park can be used to replicate real-world situations to support the development of self-parking systems; and the Routes section is a 500km network of CAV-enabled public roads, directly accessible from site.
Customers can also access simulation tools for virtual scenario testing, replicating the Assured CAV facilities and public road environments; proprietary technologies for recreating real-world objects that vehicles encounter on roads; a private 4G and 5G mobile network and ITS G5; and various ADAS robotic targets and supporting junction layouts.
“Companies such as Porsche have said that they want to provide autonomous driving when it Is needed, such as when you want to be dropped off at a restaurant. This system with its own multi-storey car park allows for fine tuning of the autonomous driving experience.” Carl Cunanan, C!, Philippines
With the opening of its new set of test tracks to perform CAV and ADAS testing and validation programmes, IDIADA says it has become Europe’s most comprehensive site for connected and automated vehicle (CAV) development. The definition of all these elements is the result of discussions with more than 50 vehicle manufacturers, system suppliers and research centres around the world. All the activity in these new facilities is aimed at developing and validating autonomous vehicles before taking them out on the open road.
The new facilities, which complement the existing tracks and zones at the Italian proving ground and can also be used to develop conventional vehicles, consist of a set of realistic scenarios reproducing urban, interurban and highway environments, and the ability to transition seamlessly between driving scenarios when performing complex CAV and ADAS testing and validation programmes – all in a safe environment. The focus of the new tracks is not the testing of vehicles at their limit, but of ensuring that autonomous vehicles are safe in real traffic situations. For this reason, the new tracks reproduce urban and interurban environments, including lanes with many combinations of lines, motorway entrances and exits, bridges, roundabouts, car parks, signage, etc. The tracks are complemented by a private 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G cellular network.
“ADAS and CAV technologies are not only changing vehicles themselves. Also impacted are the ways in which vehicles will be developed, deployed and operated. IDIADA understands this well, and has invested in new facilities designed specifically to support CAV and ADAS development and validation. It’s a paradigm shift, to put it mildly, as this isn’t just a brick and mortar (read: paved test track surfaces) game anymore. We’re talking about much more. Such as setting up private 2-5G networks and creating reconfigurable V2X communications that meet the development needs of automakers worldwide.” Phil Morse, Energy Balance, USA
“Autonomous driving is a key feature of future mobility. A testing area like this will reduce the need of early testing such systems in public traffic environment, which is an important safety factor.” Jürgen Zöllter, freelance, Germany
With the recent completion of a $2.1 million expansion project at the TRC California automotive research and testing complex, the facility is already attracting increased interest from the advanced mobility industry. Construction of a 2.2-mile oval test track, a one-mile city course and two large vehicle dynamics areas, has transformed a portion of the former Castle Airforce Base into a world-class testing facility that can replicate a wide variety of real-world highway, rural and urban scenarios.
With these latest developments – phase one of a long-term expansion plan – TRC California offers OEMs, suppliers and innovators a range of specialised test facilities that replicate real-world highway, rural and urban driving scenarios. These improvements allow for the safe testing and refinement of autonomous vehicle technologies and other advanced vehicle systems.
TRC has further plans in place, to make the facility a one-stop shop for automotive technology and mobility innovators, including testing capabilities and services for EVs and CAVs.
Catesby Tunnel, a new vehicle testing facility in the UK, is a test resource for aerodynamic testing and vehicle development. The facility is a multi-million pound redevelopment of a disused double-width railway tunnel, featuring a long, smooth tarmac straight and a 1:176 constant gradient, and as it is not affected by the weather, it is available all year round.
Uses include evaluating vehicle performance such as speed, acceleration, braking and ride height comfort; assessing thermal and cooling performance of engine bay, radiator, powertrain and brake components; testing and validating thermal counter measures; evaluating heat soak issues; vehicle emissions testing; and acoustic testing for passenger comfort and conformity to government legislation.
The facility houses a 2.7km long, 8.2m-wide purpose-built, straight road test track. Capable of providing accurate and affordable full scale aerodynamic and performance data, the tunnel is being developed by Brackley-based Aero Research Partners with testing of aerodynamic performance, cooling, aeroacoustics, emissions and dirt deposition in mind. The sealed, underground working section ensures there is no wind and minimal temperature changes, providing a controlled environment for repeatable testing.
All facilities are entirely enclosed to ensure that vehicle development programmes can be conducted in secrecy. Enclosed working spaces have a shutter opening to the tunnel to ensure privacy, while the main building adjoining the tunnel will house two full-size articulated lorries to unload vehicles directly into the preparation area.
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