AB Dynamics, Volvo Cars conduct advanced vehicle testing using Flex-0 drive-by-wire system
Volvo Cars is conducting advanced vehicle testing using drive-by-wire technology from test system supplier, AB Dynamics. Flex-0 enables vehicles to be driven directly through the CAN bus, without the need for a human driver or robot. This technology is intended to simplify installation and test processes to reduce costs and minimize the amount of test hardware required within the vehicle.
Conventionally, hardware installed for an objective vehicle test would include a steering robot, pedal robots, control system, data logger, and motion pack. Together, these can control a vehicle safely, repeatably, and more accurately than a human test driver—to within 20 mm. AB Dynamics says that this level of accuracy and repeatability is achievable with its best-in-class path-following and speed control. Flex-0 maintains this precise control without the requirement for robots in a number of common vehicle test applications.
“Many modern cars have the capability to be controlled by wire, allowing the Flex-0 to drive them as though they had robots fitted. This opens up opportunities to use our Path Following and Synchro technology to perform many types of tests for which you’d otherwise need robots,” explained Jeremy Ash, Commercial Manager, AB Dynamics. “Typically, by-wire control is tightly secured by the vehicle manufacturer to avoid security concerns. For this reason, we generally output in a standardized format which allows manufacturers to implement their own conversion to suit the vehicle, and this has been shown to work particularly well.”
The confidentiality of CAN command formats means robot actuators are still required for competitor vehicle testing or tests undertaken by third-party agencies. They will also remain the preferred choice for vehicle dynamics tests involving extreme steering inputs—where the steering forces required for the maneuver cannot be delivered by the vehicle’s power steering when commanded by-wire. This means Flex-0 and robot actuators are complementary technologies.
“Testing autonomous vehicles requires complex traffic scenarios involving multiple vehicles,” said Ash. “For these tests, GSTs (guided soft targets) can be used where there is potential for a collision—other ‘background’ traffic, with low risk of collision, can be populated by regular cars using Flex-0 as a cost- and time-effective solution.”
The Flex-0 controller can reportedly also be used in many of the test scenarios that would normally employ robot actuators instead of human drivers to reduce the risk of injury or fatigue, or to improve accuracy and repeatability. These include durability testing, advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) development (e.g., the Euro NCAP AEB test procedure), and some vehicle dynamics tests.