Driving simulator and third-party engineering tool integration

Driving simulator and third-party engineering tool integration

Cruden shares its expertise in a new article series covering third-party tools for ADAS, HMI, vehicle dynamics and more

Welcome to the first in a new series of articles from Cruden about integrating engineering tools with driving simulators. In this introduction we’ll examine why engineering tool integration is crucial to maximizing the benefits of a driver-in-the-loop (DIL) simulator and provide an overview of the topics we’ll discuss in future installments in this series.

Whether you’re specifying a new simulator or are already an expert in one or more areas of driving simulator research, we hope that you’ll find useful information on the scope and benefits of integrating specialist tools with the DIL environment. Do also visit our previous knowledge-sharing articles series, on motion and content.

“We have great knowledge within our company about engineering tools and how to use them with a driving simulator,” says Dennis Marcus, Cruden’s commercial manager for automotive and motorsport. “As well as performing the integration work, we regularly act as a consultant, assisting our customers with decision-making of which engineering tools to buy in combination with a driving simulator, so if you’re unsure of the options, come and talk to us.

“Conversely, a driving simulator is a great way to link existing tools together to deliver new capabilities and save time and money in an engineering program. As we’ll see in these Tool Integration Series articles, our engineers make sure that our simulators work with the engineering and research tools that our customers prefer to use.”

Tool integration makes a driving simulator relevant to the user’s task, whether that is collecting feedback from test subjects as part of human factors research, evaluating a new ADAS technology or setting up a motorsport chassis ahead of the next race. Integration links the simulator to established engineering tools and adds new capabilities and value to an experiment or vehicle development.

When Cruden started life as a spin-off from Fokker Aircraft in the 1990s, driving simulators were initially used only for vehicle dynamics development, primarily in motorsport. As such, the focus was only on one tool, the vehicle model. Cruden’s first simulators used a proprietary vehicle model or a MATLAB Simulink one that interfaced with its Panthera simulator control software.

More than 20 years later, vehicle dynamics development remains a key activity for driving simulator customers, but validated vehicle models are also used in the development of chassis ECUs, for example, or as a link in a development tool chain for a completely different area of experimentation, such as human factors research.

In all cases, integrating third-party vehicle dynamics tools is fundamental, so in an early article in the Tool Integration Series, we’ll explore the variety of tools in this area that are routinely integrated into Cruden’s simulators. This includes tyre models and the rapid conversion of multibody dynamics simulation models, such as Adams, to run in real time.

Vehicle dynamics was the starting point for DIL simulator deployment, but the integration of different types of engineering tools became more important when automotive OEMs and other customers began to use their simulators for different tasks. In recent years, simulator use has exploded in areas including ADAS controller development and autonomous driving, for example.

Hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) integration is essential when working on controllers, using the simulator for final validation of an ECU, but a HIL setup might also incorporate a complete brake system or a steering rack. In a future article, we’ll explore the advantages and flexibility of testing parts of the vehicle hardware in a DIL simulator, without having to build the entire car.

We’ll also delve into integration efforts to support another hot topic in automotive development, HMI research. Driving simulators can help engineers to ensure that ADAS/AD systems are not just functional, but desirable and intuitive, and align with brand values.

The integration of biometric tools such as eye trackers into the simulator can support studies into how the driver responds to an alert or interacts with the instrument cluster. In this field as in others, Cruden is uniquely positioned as an independent driving simulator manufacturer and engineering tool integrator.

“We integrate the tools that our customers are using,” says Marcus. “Many simulator manufacturers prefer their own tools but it is our primary goal to make sure that the chosen tools work best for our customers. We have a strong working relationship with many of the engineering tool developers so far as it affects the integration of those tools with our driving simulators, but we are not a reseller nor a manufacturer of engineering tools.

“You don’t need to buy different engineering tools, nor use sub-optimal ones, just because you want a driving simulator,” he adds. “Customers should always specify tools based on what the engineers need them for. Cruden takes care of the integration.”

As part of its open architecture approach, Cruden supports integration with common industry standards. Examples are the file formats – originated by a group of companies including VIRES but now overseen by ASAM – that enable different tools to work together on the same set of road models. These standards include OpenDRIVE for road definition, OpenCRG to describe the geometry of a road and OpenSCENARIO for the dynamic content in driving and traffic simulators. Elsewhere, the FMI (functional mockup interface) standard facilitates co-simulations in MATLAB Simulink environments.

In another future article, we’ll look at how Cruden integrates tools through all of these standards, as well as its use of SDKs and software bridges to create standardized, future-proof links between tools and the simulator.

Tool integration also supports the driving simulator’s role as a virtual OEM. Just as an automotive OEM works with suppliers to bring together components and subsystems to create the physical vehicle, so a driving simulator can integrate the different elements of a virtual vehicle. Digital models of the powertrain, chassis, tyre, acoustics and more, from different suppliers, can be combined to evaluate how they work together as a virtual car, even before a costly physical prototype is built. A further installment in this Tool Integration Series of articles will reveal how successful engineering tool integration can enable this process.

In every simulator application, objective measurements from the experiments need to be recorded for further analysis. One example of the importance of data acquisition is in the vehicle model correlation sessions that are increasingly migrating from the motorsport environment to mainstream automotive development. These might take the form of back-to-back test drives: on a physical proving ground, and on a virtual version of that track in the driving simulator.

In this scenario, integrating the same data acquisition software from the real car into the simulator enables a proper overlay of data from the two test drives. But Cruden’s automotive customers also acquire data in simulator experiments across the board, such as from external sensors to monitor the condition of the driver, so we’ll consider various forms of data acquisition in another of the Tool Series articles.

The first installment of the series is coming soon and Cruden is looking forward to exploring each topic in detail and sharing its expertise. Until next time!


For more information, please contact Dennis Marcus via d.marcus@cruden.com or on +31 20 707 4646.

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Links to subsequent articles will be added below as they are published.

View all articles in our Tool Integration Series of articles: here.

Article 2: Four wheels good: Vehicle model integration for dynamics and more

Article 3: Hard decisions made easier: Hardware-in-the-Loop testing with DIL simulation

Article 4: In search of perfect harmony: HMI testing in a driving simulator

Article 5: New Panthera Corebox is at the heart of tool integration

Article 6: Standard interfaces for non-standard simulators

Article 7: Perfect harmony: The driving simulator as a virtual OEM

Article 8: Tool Integrations – Data acquisition





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