The versatility of Racelogic’s range of VBOX GPS data loggers, together with the various modules, inertial units, and displays that accompany and enhance them, has led to extensive use within virtually every sector of the automotive testing industry.
The test engineer using high quality hardware can only take full advantage of it if the software being used alongside is of the same standard. It needs to be extremely capable and versatile, like the hardware it supports.
This is difficult to achieve: a supporting program that can be used to analyse just about any kind of test can itself become tiresomely long-winded and complex to set up and use. When pressure is mounting for evaluation to be conducted in as short a time as possible – whether it’s because of limited track time, cost, or production deadlines – having to spend lengthy periods setting up the software, with lots of time needed for post processing and reporting, is counter-productive and undermines the reasons for acquiring top of the range hardware in the first place.
Racelogic have now produced a software package, VBOX Test Suite, that solves the problem of advanced features versus ease of use in one go. They also recognise the fact that, although VBOX units around the world are used in hugely varying test environments, most of them are still purchased by individual departments to do one job. Developed based on extensive feedback from engineers who use a VBOX every day at the sharp end of vehicle development, the ethos behind the new software is to significantly reduce the time it takes to conduct specific tests to exacting modern standards, and therefore caters to specialised applications.
By creating an adaptable working space that allows for multiple sets of data to be compared via separate tabs, the software is as simple to use as it is capable; and it produces reports that present results clearly enough for complex data to be clearly displayed and understood, no matter who is looking at them. The automation of much of the reporting is a key factor in getting results together in a meaningful manner so quickly.
The software also includes video integration for use with Racelogic’s Video VBOX range; customisable graphs; compatibility with satellite imagery so that a positional trace can be overlaid; and live or post-test analysis. Context-sensitive menus means that managing several data sets doesn’t get too complicated.
On first release, VBOX Test Suite allowed for basic performance testing – acceleration and deceleration, triggered by GPS speed or a vehicle CAN input. It has now been updated, however, to include ‘plugins’ for specific types of testing.
One of Racelogic’s core competencies has always been for brake testing, so it made sense that the first additional component to the software should cater for engineers conducting brake stops. Any VBOX 3i user in the world who carries out braking development can get full use out of it, as the software is configured so that it conforms to regulations in all regions. The brake test plugin can carry out auto-calibration of wheel speeds; calculates wheel slip; and produces results based on a speed to speed parameter or via alternative inputs such as a trigger, brake pressure and position values.
Tests can be run within a tightly defined set of criteria, such as between temperature ranges. Centreline deviation is automatically calculated during each run, and thresholds can be applied to ensure that the operative gets immediate feedback on the validity of results. The report it produces includes all the relevant information along with the engineer’s notes.
The most recent additions to VBOX Test Suite are for lateral and longitudinal aquaplane characterisation to allow the tyre test engineer to perform a complete evaluation of a tyre’s performance in aquaplane conditions.
The lateral aquaplane plugin allows the user to specify ‘entry criteria’ to ensure that the vehicle is fully settled and in as steady state as possible before entering the water bath, where the test begins. Then, by closely monitoring the vehicle’s lateral acceleration at varying entry speeds, the software produces a comprehensive report of the maximum acceleration obtained during each run. This then allows the engineer to understand the peak acceleration value that can be achieved by a given tyre, as well as the rate which grip decreases once aquaplane has occurred. This data can be directly compared to other tyre compounds to provide engineers with the information needed to grade tyre performance in wet corner conditions.
The longitudinal aquaplane plugin employs a user-definable threshold slip value for each wheel, providing the user with the opportunity to choose between reaching the aquaplane condition when one, or all of the tyres, exceed this value. Wheel speeds can be automatically calibrated in comparison with GPS speed but this doesn’t need to be done in the actual test area – it can be done anywhere, further reducing pressure on track time. Pre-entry test conditions are also user-definable, in order to ensure the vehicle is in a steady state before the test begins.
Racelogic already have the next set of plugins under development and will soon be releasing updates to allow for coast-down, again configured to differing region’s standards and specifications such as J2263 or the latest WLTP GTR15; Euro NCAP AEB protocol; and R41 Pass By Noise.