Joe Fin­nerty

Could vir­tual-re­al­ity test­ing, with parts scat­tered around the coun­try, be the fu­ture?

Auto Express - - Watchdog - Joe_finnerty@den­ @ Ae_­con­sumer

HAV­ING all your data stored in “the cloud” is be­com­ing more and more the norm, as re­mote work­ing starts to of­fer a con­ve­nient op­tion.

This also al­lows you to work across mul­ti­ple lo­ca­tions, mean­ing get­ting the bright­est minds to­gether for work projects is eas­ier than ever. No longer do you have to or­gan­ise peo­ple to one lo­ca­tion at the same time, which can be pricey, or a lo­gis­ti­cal night­mare.

For car de­vel­op­ment, though, there re­mains the prob­lem of hav­ing a work­ing pro­to­type in one lo­ca­tion. Sure, man­u­fac­tur­ers have been us­ing com­puter sim­u­la­tions to test con­cepts with­out spend­ing thou­sands on full­size pro­to­types for years. But can you carry out vir­tual-re­al­ity test­ing with parts scat­tered around the coun­try?

Ex­perts in the in­dus­try be­lieve so, and have set up a three-year pro­ject – en­ti­tled the Vir­tu­ally Con­nected Hy­brid Ve­hi­cle (VCHV) – to look into the fea­si­bil­ity of test­ing dif­fer­ent as­pects of a hy­brid en­gine in a real-time, vir­tual en­vi­ron­ment.

Eight PHD en­gi­neers around the UK – based ev­ery­where from Bath and Lough­bor­ough to New­cas­tle and War­wick – will de­velop six dif­fer­ent hy­brid sub­sys­tems that will be tested to­gether, while phys­i­cally re­main­ing on test rigs at their host uni­ver­si­ties.

It’s fu­tur­is­tic work, but for the in­dus­try it’s highly valu­able and cost-ef­fec­tive. It’s es­ti­mated only five per cent of pow­er­train test­ing is done vir­tu­ally, but by com­bin­ing ex­per­tise from around the coun­try, it could shorten timescales of de­vel­op­ing prod­ucts by up to 12 months.

For car buy­ers, that means cheaper, bet­ter cars hit­ting the mar­ket sooner – which can only be a good thing.

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