Automotive test system supplier AB Dynamics today said it has partnered with NASCAR to conduct a driverless, on-track crash test of its Next Gen race car that is running in the 2022 Cup Series. The test vehicle was driven at high speed to a pre-programmed course by driving robots into the banking wall at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.
The aim was to test the safety of the vehicle and the impact on the driver in this type of accident, which is a common crash scenario in the series. The race car was fitted with sensors and a crash-test dummy to create valuable and accurate data that NASCAR was able to use for crash simulation validation.
“The challenge was trying to get this extremely complex machine to do a very precise test without a human driver piloting the car,” said Craig Hoyt, business development manager at AB Dynamics. “A major hurdle NASCAR faced was finding a crash-test facility which could conduct such high-speed crash testing.”
“AB Dynamics robots allowed NASCAR to use a fully running race car and conduct the test at a real race track, at real race speeds,” he added. “There is no better data than replicating crash tests in a real environment and our robots enable us to do that accurately and repeatedly.”
Bradford on Avon, U.K.-based AB Dynamics offers a range of track and lab testing equipment. From kinematics and compliance machines and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) targets to driving simulators, the company said it supplies the 25 most successful car manufacturers in the world.
AB Dynamics robots provide precise impact
A requirement for the test, which was conducted in October 2021, was to drive the race car at 130 mph (209 kph) to a precise impact point into the SAFER (Steel And Foam Energy Reduction) barrier, hitting it at an angle of 24 degrees. To control the vehicle’s speed and direction it was fitted with steering, shifting, and pedal (throttle, brake and clutch) robots.
The inputs to the robots were provided by AB Dynamics’ path-following software, which can use pre-recorded driving information and geometric GPS data to accurately navigate a predetermined route. This package ensured that the vehicle was positioned to within 2 cm (0.7 in.) of the impact point. It hit the wall at precisely 130.015 mph (209.238 kph) and was within 1 degree of the prescribed angle.
The test used AB Dynamics’ SR60 robot for steering, its CBAR600 for pedals, and its Gearshift Robot. The off-the-shelf products required minimal modification to fit in the vehicle.
Importantly, the robots are unobtrusive, so they did not interfere with the positioning or results from the crash-test dummy, said the company.
AB Dynamics' driving robots inside the Next Gen test vehicle. Source: AB Dynamics
Safety robots improve motorsport, other vehicles
“Our robots are largely used for the development of passenger and commercial vehicles and are regularly used for durability, misuse, and driver-assistance system testing,” said Hoyt. “This is one of the highest-speed crash tests we have ever conducted, and the robots only suffered minor damage. It really is a testament to the safety of the vehicle, the barriers, and the ruggedness of our products.”
“This is a truly innovative way to test the safety of vehicles in motorsport,” said John Patalak, managing director for safety engineering at NASCAR. “The data we obtained from the test was extremely important and was not possible to get from any crash test facilities at the time.”
“The test provided valuable information for correlation with our computer crash simulations and confirmed that the predicted vehicle impact performance from the simulation was duplicated in this real-world crash test,” he said.
Email Sign Up
Get news, papers, media and research delivered
Stay up-to-date with news and resources you need to do your job.
Research industry trends, compare companies and get market intelligence every week with Robotics 24/7.
Subscribe to our robotics user email newsletter and we'll keep you informed and up-to-date.