FCA Opens R&D Center in Windsor, Touted as Most Advanced Driving Simulator in North America

Auburn Hills-based Fiat Chrysler Automobiles opened a new vehicle dynamics simulator lab Wednesday at its Automotive Research and Development Centre in Windsor that the automaker says features the most advanced driving simulator technology available in North America.
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FCA advanced vehicle driving simulator
FCA has opened its advanced vehicle driving simulator lab, which it claims offers the most advanced driving simulator technology on the continent. // Photo courtesy of FCA

Auburn Hills-based Fiat Chrysler Automobiles opened a new vehicle dynamics simulator lab Wednesday at its Automotive Research and Development Centre in Windsor that the automaker says features the most advanced driving simulator technology available in North America.

“Our new VDS is cutting-edge technology that emulates a vehicle’s driving dynamics in a real time, virtual environment,” says Tony Mancina, head of engineering for FCA Canada. “This new technology offers the driver a customized virtual immersion that replicates the ride and handling of a specific vehicle on a multitude of simulated road surfaces and driving environments.”

Most driving simulators use six actuators to deliver six “degrees of freedom.” To more accurately reproduce vehicle ride, handling, and acceleration characteristics, the FCA VDS system uses nine actuators to create additional ranges of motion that create a closer immersion to an actual vehicle.

A notable feature of the new VDS is a three-micron cushion of air, which floats the entire 4.5-ton motion platform above the floor like a hovercraft or air-hockey puck, allowing for a quiet and seamless motion via the massive electric actuators.

The new simulator has the ability to add subsystems, such as brake and steering, anti-lock brake system, and electronic stability control, to create a hardware in the loop test bench to better meet functional targets. This strategy helps reduce product development times and lower project validation costs, according to FCA.

“The ability to simulate a drive experience with hardware in the loop is key to our engineering efforts and assists in identifying design changes much earlier in the development process,” says Rob Wichman, head of FCA Vehicle Engineering. “By using simulators, we can create a virtual environment to assess the ride and handling of a vehicle, perform tests on sensor technology for advanced driver assistance systems applications, evaluate different human machine interface configurations, and test for driver distraction and distraction remedies.”

The simulator can be fitted with any vehicle body, road, and environment. To create a visual experience on the five projector screens, data is collected by scanning the environments and the different roads, such as FCA’s proving grounds in Chelsea. The data then is stitched together to create a real-time virtual environment that can include elevation changes, off-camber roads, and potholes.

Initially, the VDS will be used to support the chassis vehicle dynamics team, but in the future will be used to support development of ADAS and HMI systems. With an overall investment of $10.1 million (Canadian), including support from the Ontario government through the Southwestern Ontario Development Fund, FCA worked with VI-grade to develop the new driving simulator technology.

In other FCA news, the company has extended the application window for the more than 11,000 pre-qualified Detroiters who want to work at the company’s new assembly plant being built on the city’s east side. The deadline for applications now is Sept. 29. The extension applies to Detroiters who already have completed the Detroit at Work Job Readiness activities at more than 300 events around the city since June. Applicants experiencing any technical difficulties should call Detroit at Work at 313-962-WORK for assistance.

FCA also is hiring people for salaried and skilled trades positions. Available positions can be found here.

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