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On the virtual test site

Employees at the SimLAB in Wolfsburg are making more and more use of virtual technologies for assurance purposes – to make tomorrow’s vehicles safer.

The duo from the SimLAB in the driving simulator – Julian Timpner (left) and Jens Krause.

The future is already here for Julian Timpner and Jens Krause. The two IT specialists from Electronic Development (in German, EE) in Wolfsburg are working in the simulation laboratory, or SimLAB. They perform computer-based tests of systems and control units until market maturity. What used to be time-consuming work on specially built prototypes is now increasingly being done virtually. Within a good year and a half, EE was able to reduce the number of test vehicles by almost one-third. SimLAB will ensure this trend is continued.

“Our I.D. family will make major changes to the way we drive in the future, ­including with respect to safety,” says Julian Timpner. He has been working on a simulation of Car2X communication in the SimLAB for a year now. This technology is entirely new, and allows vehicles to communicate with their surroundings and each other. Up to 500 vehicles can be connected on one network. “Your vehicle can warn you if the end of a traffic jam is right around the corner, or if there is black ice in the next town,” explains Timpner.

» Our I.D. family will make major changes to the way we drive in the future, ­including with respect to safety. «

Julian Timpner

SimLAB is able to analyze numerous unexpected situations such as these these virtually. “When two vehicles encounter each other at an intersection, that’s something you can still test on the test site,” says the 31-year-old IT specialist. That’s not so easy on a busy intersection or in the middle of a traffic jam on a three-lane freeway.

To guarantee safety in these and similar situations, the employees in the simulation lab make use of virtual methods. In May of this year, they designed the first ever virtual test site in Hall 90b at the Wolfsburg plant. Speed is important. This is because the SimLAB considers itself to be an agile service provider working on behalf of the developers – keeping its finger on the pulse across all the development stages though to vehicle approval.

» We work on issues that won’t turn up in our vehicles for a few years yet. «

Jens Krause

“We work on issues that won’t turn up in our vehicles for a few years yet. It’s really interesting and varied,” says Jens Krause. His area of specialization in the SimLAB is testing methods for emergency braking maneuvers, the type that are used, for example, when there is a collision looming at an intersection. There are many ­intersections, and an even greater number of dangerous traffic situations. The 35-year-old vehicle IT specialist explains: “You need to reconstruct around 200,000 scenarios to test the cases in which an emergency brake might be used at an intersection. You can only do that on virtual test sites.”

Autonomous driving requires even more and stricter virtual safety tests. Several hundred million test kilometers are necessary to ensure that everything is operating as safely as it should. Per model. For example, if a test driver were to cover 1,000 kilometers a day, then more than 5,000 drivers would need to remain on duty 365 days a year in order to ensure that a fully automated vehicle is designed to be safe. That’s a mission impossible. And yet the SimLAB is making it happen – virtually.