Many lorry drivers watch movies while at the wheel as a way of alleviating boredom. If you unwittingly wander in front of a Mercedes it can sense your presence of humans and automatically apply the brakes – even if the driver is watching a blockbuster movie.

This could be put to the test at Heathrow, Britain’s biggest cargo port by value, which cannot cope with the existing numbers of forty foot lorries, let alone the logistical challenge that Brexit might create, says Nick Booth.

This is what we learned at MultiModal in Birmingham’s NEC, where the UK’s freight and logistics industry convene. This is an industry that needs the IoT to save its logistics problems. Before the logistics industry can be automated though, the IoT needs to get its own testing house in order.

It costs $1 million (€0.84 million) just to develop a prototype Smart Car and much of the expense is in the testing, says Kia Cammaerts, testing stalwart and founder of Ansible Motion, a simulator which promises massive time and money savings.

Physical options are limited and expensive. If you book a slot at the 40 acre Mcity Test Facility at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor or at the world’s largest testing site, K-City in South Korea, you will need to bring a truckload of money to burn.

The new generation of simulation technologies developed by the likes of Ansible Motion can cut the test track time needed. Amazingly, it was only recently that Ansible’s Driver in the Loop (DIL) simulation techniques supplanted the simulators that were a legacy of aircraft technology half a century old.

The new systems use graphics and motion cueing to trick drivers into responding just as they would in a real vehicle. The results are good enough to be linked to component developments, chassis tuning and real engines.

However, humans are still best-placed to determine how well a car performs. So DIL simulation laboratories offer the chance for real people to experience realistic scenarios but in a controlled environment that can be repeated. Without stepping in front of a speeding vehicle. For product development teams ‘virtual test drives’ can deliver the control and consistency they crave with as many macro or micro variations as required.

As vehicles become more complex, moving more testing to the virtual world will minimise some risks. This is particularly true of the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and semi-autonomous systems – such as the Mercedes – which intervene when the vehicle is about to hit a cyclist.

Kia Cammaerts

On the other hand, one Japanese OEM used its simulator to save money by preparing its test drivers to tackle Germany’s Nordschleife test track. By putting in the miles on the simulator, they managed to make the most of their evaluation time at the physical circuit. ‘Sim miles’ save lives too. A number of test engineers have died over the years at Nordschleife.

Repeatability is the biggest benefit that DIL simulator testing brings, says Cammaerts. “Vehicle designers can recreate the same test conditions as often as they want, with as many macro or micro variations as they wish,” says Cammaerts.

A 10-day testing session for a prototype subsystem such as electronic stability control (ESC) could potentially complete in three if it ‘pre-qualifies’ the tuning changes in a Driver-in-the-Loop simulator. Simulators mean that fewer scenarios need to be tested and the number of daunting test matrices for performance tuning can be cut from hundreds to dozens.

So if you are wondering around Heathrow’s Horse Show cargo hub with your headphones on and your eyes glued to a screen, it’s not a lorry that will kill you. It’ll be the waiting time.

The author of this blog is Nick Booth, freelance IT and communications writer

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