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The driving simulator, a precious tool to develop vehicles

17.10.2019
The driving simulator, a precious tool to develop vehicles

Recreating real driving conditions to test out technical solutions helps optimizing time and resources in the development of new Audi models.

Motorway or track, it makes no difference. Audi’s dynamic driving simulator is able to faithfully reproduce any situation in which you may find yourself behind the wheel, providing the driver with the same sensations he would experience when driving a real vehicle in the same actual context. For example, the Zandvoort track in the Netherlands is among the available options, here you can take a virtual lap of the circuit on your own, or even with other cars.

The simulator is located in a dedicated room painted in black, located inside the Audi Technical Development Centre, and Richard Uhlmann, project manager and development engineer from the “Chassis Concept Properties” department, is one of the specialists who uses it most frequently.

A hexapod for virtual driving

This simulator replicates the driving performance as precisely as possible,” Uhlmann explains. It is made up of a section of a vehicle’s passenger compartment mounted on a hexapod, a six-legged hydraulic support which can move by up to 60 centimetres in all directions.

It is connected to a four-metre-tall, 180-degree screen that stands in front of the driver, with seven LED projectors pointed at it. Each movement matches the input from the virtual vehicle to the nearest millimetre, and the steering resistance is simulated with an electronic actuator.

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Years of development

The driving performance is replicated as precisely as possible so that the drivers don’t feel motion sickness,” Uhlmann continues. “We developed our own algorithm to manage the simulator, which is part of our virtual vehicle development procedure.

Development of the simulator began in 2012, but it only recently got up to speed, to ensure the highest accuracy and correspondence with the specifications of Audi models.

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A useful tool

Audi engineers use the simulator to assess the driving characteristics of new models right from the beginning of the development process. Each model can be reproduced virtually, entering all the relevant vehicle data such as weight, suspension type, dimensions and engine power. This is just one of the steps of the complex virtual development chain, which is already used to design new chassis with notable success, in terms both of time, and above all of costs.

Obviously the simulator, as accurate as it is, cannot fully replicate testing with real vehicles, above all in terms of fine-tuning the driving dynamics and comfort. Some types of movement can, indeed, only be partially replicated – and others not at all. For example, “at 60 km/h, a car has a braking distance of around 36 metres. In order to accurately replicate the same manoeuvre with the simulator, it would need to move 36 metres,” Uhlmann concludes.

In future, the goal is to use virtual technology to test driving characteristics right from the initial phases, in order to make essential decisions to approach design matters and further optimise processes.

SourceAudi AG

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