Transitioning Automotive Testing from the Road to the Lab 2004-01-1770
The importance of the automotive test facility has increased significantly due in large part to continuous pressure on manufactures to shorten product development cycles. Test facilities are no longer used only for regulatory testing, or development testing in which the effects of small design changes (A-to-B testing) are determined; automotive manufacturers are beginning to use these facilities for final design validation, which has traditionally required on road testing. A host of resources have gone into the design and construction of facilities with the capability to simulate nearly any environment of practical importance to the automotive industry. As a result, there are now a number of test facilities, and specifically wind tunnels, in which engineers can test most aspects of a vehicle's performance in real-world environments. However, care must be exercised to properly understand the relationship between data collected in the facility and the vehicle's performance in a real-world setting. To develop this understanding, a process must be developed and followed by which tests that have traditionally been run on the road are transitioned into the facility.
This paper describes a process for transitioning testing from the road into a test facility (road-to-lab) based on a method of direct correlation that was developed to allow Ford Motor Company to move powertrain testing, or a portion of that testing, from the road into the Driveability Test Facility in Allen Park, Michigan. The focus of the paper is on the process and lessons learned in developing this method. The requirements, benefits, and limitations of the direct approach are discussed, and selected results are presented that highlight the process used.
A brief review of current automotive test facilities and traditional testing is included to provide the historical background for the development of these facilities and the capabilities that enable them to simulate real-world environments. Some of the challenges faced in moving testing from the road into the lab are also highlighted.