Author Archives: racelogic

Introducing VBOX Test Suite

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.

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Sweeping changes

Australian Road Trains. Have you seen these things? They’re unbelievable – the longest can be over 50 metres long. Whilst the US, Canada, Mexico and a couple of Scandinavian countries allow LCVs (longer combination vehicles, to give them a much drier title) no one does it quite like they do, Down Under.

So we’ve been contacted by someone who needs to be able to measure just how far the trailers or hauling vehicles ingress into adjacent lanes, or off the side of the road. Not easy to do. His current solution is ingenious if a little Heath Robinson: attach hosepipes to each trailer corner, drive the test, and measure the water trails before they dry (which I’ll be willing to bet, in Australia, doesn’t take long.)

Road Train Warning Sign and Roadtrain Just Passing By

My colleague Jake has got stuck in, working out a solution. There are a variety of parameters that need to measured, such as Low Speed Swept Path, Frontal Swing, or the terrifying-sounding High Speed Transient Offtracking, which aims to determine the lateral distance that the last axle on the rearmost trailer tracks outside the path of the steering axle, during a sudden evasive manoeuvre. You wouldn’t want to be in the way of one of these things when it starts to go wrong.

The answer: use our Lane Departure Warning setup and software. This ADAS application has been developed for engineers looking to validate the effectiveness of their Lane Departure Warning systems by first mapping the lane boundaries, and then logging a car’s deviation from them and the angle at which they’re approached.

With a Road Train, you configure the hauling unit as the “lane”, and the trailer as the “subject vehicle” in the software. Once processed, the distance between the hauling and trailing units can be calculated. It works very well.

My colleague has just completed an application note about this, it will be available on our VBOX website soon.

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How fast can it go, Mister?

Interesting thread on LinkedIn last week. Someone asked about using GPS in vehicle testing and it generated a fair number of responses, and one of them caught my interest.

It’s really quite amazing that after more than a decade of GPS use, for such a wide variety of applications, that misconceptions about accuracy still remain; I deal with this particular misunderstanding quite often. However, the LinkedIn discussion also contained one comment which boldly stated that “the maximum satellite frequency available will only allow for 20Hz GPS logging.” Wrong unfortunately (and gracefully retracted a couple of posts later) but it did get me questioning what the theoretical fastest log rate might be. I’m sure I used to know… or maybe not, so I checked.

GPS satellites output what’s called the Coarse Acquisition Code at 1023 Mhz, the code itself being 1023 bits long. I won’t do any more maths (you can look it up) but this then gives you a possible log rate of 1000Hz. Imagine that: one thousand samples every second to test your vehicle dynamics… I wonder when the technology will be created to produce such a sensor? I also wonder if 1000Hz logging will ever actually be necessary; but I’d like to find out.

Range Accuracy Without a Base Station? How?

Base Stations: all very well if you’re testing over a finite range, say between two to five kilometers. But what if you want to go out on the open road, drive for long distances, and see how something like your adaptive cruise control really works when your target vehicle is sharing the road with a large variety of other vehicles and architecture?

The solution is a technology called “Moving Base” where the static Base Station is replaced by a second VBOX, configured into a special DGPS Base Station mode. This does not affect the absolute positional accuracy of either VBOX but it does increase their relative positional accuracy, and from this we can get a range accuracy to 2cm – great for ADAS testing.

So we are currently in the throes of final testing Moving Base. It should be available by the end of the year, but before we release it officially the Marketing team have requested that I prove this to them with a 24Hr ‘rooftop’ test. I have to get two VBOX 3iSL RTK units plugged into antennas on the top of the Racelogic building and we’ll see how they perform overnight. Just as well we have the antennas up there permanently, given the British weather!