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Volvo Cars using AB Dynamics drive-by-wire technology for vehicle testing; Flex-0

Volvo Cars is now conducting advanced vehicle testing using an innovative drive-by-wire technology from leading 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 represents a significant step forward, greatly simplifying installation and test processes, reducing costs and minimizing the amount of test hardware required within the vehicle.

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Conventionally, hardware installed for an objective vehicle test would include a steering robot, pedal robots, control system, data logger and a motion pack. Together, these can control a vehicle safely, repeatably and more accurately than a human test driver—to within 20 mm. This level of accuracy and repeatability is achievable due to AB Dynamics’ 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.

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.

—Jeremy Ash, Commercial Manager, AB Dynamics

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.

The Flex-0 also has the potential to be a key tool for testing autonomous vehicles. As the industry learns more about the testing and validation requirements for such systems, there will be a need to conduct tests that safely replicate real-world roadscapes and situations.

Testing autonomous vehicles requires complex traffic scenarios involving multiple vehicles. 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.

—Jeremy Ash

The Flex-0 controller can 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, ADAS development (for example the Euro NCAP AEB test procedure) and some vehicle dynamics tests.

AB Dynamics is an automotive test system supplier with a diverse range of track and lab testing equipment. From Kinematics & Compliance machines and ADAS targets to state-of-the-art driving simulators, AB Dynamics supplies the 25 most successful car manufacturers in the world.

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