Tough Times For Automotive Testing

T Murrali

More than 1.25 million people die in the world every year in road accidents. One life is lost every four minutes on Indian roads; daily about 400 Indians do not come back home. In order to end this traumatic condition the global automotive industry has been doing continuous research and development, with governments enacting new laws and regulations.

The automotive industry is adopting different methodologies, including different paths in mobility, for zero accidents. The systems and module suppliers also work hard to develop solutions to support this mission.

The OEMs are moving on to alternative mobility, while improving the features of the conventional internal combustion engines and vehicles. The new mobility options include E-mobility, Plug-in Hybrids, Hybrid Electric Vehicles, Fuel Cells and vehicles that run on alternative fuels like bio-gas.

For achieving greater quotient in safety, the vehicle manufacturers are looking at various options. For e-mobility, they explore several aspects of the vehicle – like its sound, the acoustic feedback the customer expects, and the sounds that are pleasing to consumers. Data analysis and the optimisation of software are becoming more important for e-mobility and all forms of connected vehicles even with conventional powertrains. There is an increased level of ‘automation’ and ‘vehicle connectivity’ in every new model launched globally. These two drivers will propel developments in automotive R & D and also testing.

The industry has been working on developing self-driven cars since a couple of decades assuming they will reduce road accidents. In spite of the promises of the proponents of autonomous vehicles, crash test facilities must become more variable, powerful and efficient. The new development tools, automation, advancements in software / hardware will increase efficiency. Still the lingering question is whether autonomous vehicles bring down road accidents to level zero?

With immense changes in the way every vehicle is hauled, almost all the OEMs are forced to redesign the entire vehicle, including interiors, to match emerging requirements. They have to spend more time on the active and passive safety systems also. The initiatives to reduce accidents will be nullified without a proper and contemporary testing eco-system. All systems should be fully tested before they are declared road worthy. For this there should be test labs, testing methodologies and proving grounds. With disruptive technologies engulfing the automotive industry the testing landscape must be completely revamped.

Virtual testing, currently kept as a complement or substitute for physical testing, could be recognised as simulation and analytical examination and not as just virtual testing. With several fine-tuning initiatives, it may even minimise the physical testing. Evolution in simulation techniques may progress in such a way that the new models will be easy to construct and illustration of performance will be more trustworthy.

Testing will be more sophisticated, yet simpler and would reduce the testing lead time. Test equipment costs will continue to fall with the increasing refinement of low-cost sensors and data acquisition. Improvements in computing capability will expand the test information capacity. Lower costs will entice more users and reduce failures. With simplified installations testing will continue to be more efficient and the testing personnel would need more training. Introduction of new testing procedures will reduce track testing.

AutoParts Asia tries to capture the changes in the testing landscape through this special edition on Automotive Testing. Some of the prominent players in this field are featured in this special edition.

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