Tag Archives: brake testing

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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Mira Goes Live

Mira Proving Ground have recently introduced a resource which has the potential to be of great assistance to VBOX customers.

I was over there recently to test whether the signal they output from a permanently installed base station is compatible with our kit. Indeed it is – and they now transmit an RTK correction signal to just about every part of the facility. This is a seriously useful feature they’re offering: it means that if you’ve got a VBOX3i RTK and our latest radio modems, you can just rock up and start testing with 2cm positional accuracy.


If you’re carrying out tests that require a high level of positional accuracy – so ADAS validation or development, for instance – you’ll be able to get on with it pretty much immediately without having to first set up a base station.

One of the happy by-products to this is consistency in brake testing. Although positional accuracy to 2cm isn’t necessary to measure stopping distance, it does allow for comparison of results taken from differing areas of the track, which wears in the same way that any road surface does and can lead to sometimes puzzling results. The enhancement of knowing precisely at which point of the road surface the tests are carried out can iron out these anomalous results.

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Asta La Vista, Baby

Back to Sweden again recently, where I got a chance to visit a very interesting place – the ASTAZero proving ground, nearing completion in time for its official opening next year.

This is a joint collaboration between Swedish governmental institutions, industry, and academia – but with a focus on international development of traffic safety systems. It’s big, with a total paved surface area of some 250,000 square metres.


So, it’s a new proving ground. So what? Well the difference here is the nature of the testing that is at the heart of ASTA’s mission. For the first time a facility is being built completely dedicated to the development of active safety systems.

Here’s a bit from their brochure: “…a testbed for advanced active safety where almost any conceivable kind of test will be possible, whether to examine the functions of, for example, autonomous or connected vehicles, platooning, or driver behaviour.”

Some interesting words being used here – ‘platooning’ in particular. I always wondered what term would be applied to groups of connected vehicles, travelling within a few centimetres of each other with minimal driver input. I wonder if it will stick.

ASTA stands for Active Safety Test Area. The Zero? That conveys the facility’s vision: to help bring the number of automotive related fatalities down to nothing. A high ideal, but a commendable one and I wish them every success.

You can find out more about ASTAZero on their website: http://www.astazero.com/

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Braking Down

Been getting around a lot recently, visiting customers at a variety of test facilities. It’s a really useful exercise because I get to see VBOXs being put through their paces in the environment for which they were designed, rather than on my desk, connected to a LabSat and a roof-borne antenna.

It’s also an ideal opportunity to, shall we say, dispel some misconceptions. I touched on this briefly a few months back. Some things just get stuck in people’s heads and it takes a physical demonstration or an authoritative intervention to change their mind.

This time, it’s brake stops. A ‘core competency’ (as my colleagues in the Marketing Department would have me put it) of VBOX products. At a certain European test track engineers carry out brake stop manoeuvres over a distance-marked tarmac area. Whilst I was there I witnessed a couple of these and was then called over by one of the drivers. He complained that the brake distance results were very inconsistent.

I checked his test procedure. I asked how he initiates the start of the test. His response was, in my world at least, very surprising: “We hit the brakes at the first marker.”

The reason they conduct these stops on a marked out apron is so that they can get definitive results based not just on the GPS data, but also on where the car actually stops. They were seeing VBOX results that differed to those based on the painted track markers.

You can’t do it this way. I explained that, no matter how good a driver you are, it isn’t possible to brake at exactly the same point each time. Once I’d set them up with a light-barrier, so that the test start point was always the same, the results spoke for themselves.

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Getting the High Five from NCAP

Just got back from the Automotive Testing Expo in Stuttgart, where we had a pretty busy three days. As I expected, our increasing focus on ADAS probably took up 50% or more of the conversations we had on the stand. It’s got me thinking about just how the manufacturers market their new models these days.

It wasn’t too long ago that just about every advert you saw for a new car – TV or print – concentrated on speed and handling. Excitement. Sportiness. But that’s all changed, partially through legislation and political correctness, but also because the sheer volume of regulations – each generating a new acronym – that must be adhered to when developing a new car. Given that we sell equipment for developing the systems that keep people alive, either by accident avoidance or crash protection, we need to be ahead of the curve. Or at least on it.

Stuttgart was full of the current buzz acronym: AEB. Autonomous Emergency Braking. It’s not all that new in terms of concept or even practical application, but the reason so many test engineers mentioned it to me is because of the forthcoming NCAP star rating itinerary. For 2014 there’s going to be a new generation of cars being launched, all with AEB, because Euro NCAP won’t hand out five stars unless they have it. Next year AEB is only necessary for collision mitigation, but for 2016 it will also be for pedestrian protection.

The full NCAP ratings report can be found here.

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