Automotive test systems supplier AB Dynamics has collaborated with VW, Audi and Porsche to demonstrate what it claims is the greatest number of vehicles to be successfully synchronized in a ‘swarm test’. The movements of seven automated vehicles were synchronised with an Ego vehicle (the vehicle under test) in a range of tests at the Nardò Technical Center, Italy.
A total of 152 tests were carried out over 11 days, including high-speed runs up to 130kmh and ‘cutting in’ maneuvers with vehicles as close as 1m. AB Dynamics supplied test equipment and engineers from its UK and German offices, and from its Italian distributor, Leane, who worked in conjunction with personnel from VW, Audi and Porsche.
“These tests were much more complex than a Euro NCAP scenario which typically involves one target vehicle plus a guided soft target,” explained Leo Evans, senior engineer at AB Dynamics. “In the real world, interactions often involve multiple vehicles but running several automated vehicles in close proximity has challenged the industry until now, meaning human drivers were often used instead. Unfortunately, human drivers, however highly skilled, cannot always produce the repeatability needed to thoroughly investigate system behaviour, so electronic control is necessary to eliminate variation between tests.”
The company says it overcame the control challenge by implementing a communications system using dual-band IP radio, providing highly dependable data transfer from vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-base through secure mesh networks. This avoids the interference and signal loss that can occur with standard WLAN technology when used with multiple vehicles, which can lead to tests being aborted.
The communication platform allowed the company’s Synchro control system to accurately synchronize the movements of the test vehicles. The movements of as many as seven automated vehicles were synchronized successfully and repeatedly with the Ego vehicle on a single trigger broadcast. In addition to the mobile control center, the vehicles involved included: four under robot control; two under drive-by-wire control; one AB Dynamics global soft target (GST) plus the Ego vehicle. All the equipment used was fully portable, meaning the tests can be carried out at any suitable location.
“As the automotive industry increasingly moves from ADAS testing and validation to full vehicle autonomy, the need to control traffic swarms reliably under different test scenarios will become even more important,” said Jeremy Ash, sales director at AB Dynamics. “The Nardò tests have demonstrated that we have the capability and all the tools in place to do this today.”
As well as demonstrating the ability to accurately control and synchronize all the vehicles under test, the other ambition of the project was to use one OpenScenario run file for both simulation and track testing.
“This capability allows a test scenario to be quickly and simply ‘copied and pasted’ from simulation to the track,” explained Ash. “It allows much of the set-up work to be done virtually, making track testing more efficient, which significantly reduces cost. “Perhaps most importantly, through simulation many variations of a particular scenario can be tested virtually with correlation taking place on the track. AB Dynamics is the only supplier that enables customers to progress from virtual laboratory-based evaluation to real-world track testing in a single digital environment.”