When developing commercial vehicle motion control technologies that are used on public roads, and in haulage yards around the world, it's important that everything is thoroughly tested for both usability and safety. The development of these systems would not be possible without rigorous and methodical test engineers putting in the hours on our test tracks. These engineers are the drivers that get behind the wheel of the trucks to put every new piece of technology through its paces.
These drivers perform testing activities that cover all aspects of a new piece of technology, and in a wide range of operating conditions. Having competent test engineers who can take a truck through a series of maneuvers, both simple and complex, at one of WABCO's three test facilities is a vital part of this.
We caught up with Sebastian Duensing, who is a test engineer responsible for testing braking systems at WABCO.
Getting ready for real-world tests
Before the driver even gets into a truck, significant preparation needs to be done. There's no point in getting into a vehicle ready to test a new piece of technology if no one is sure what needs to be tested. Sebastian explains: "We work closely with the customer to understand their needs and requirements for the design and functionality of a new braking system".
"During all the development steps, I'm responsible for supporting the test vehicle and the development team in ensuring that every specific function can be tested."
All customer requirements are checked with test sessions during the braking system development phase with a view to proving its functionality and its associated safety and reliability.
Preparing the truck
"First I have to study the test cases and maneuvers contained in the test session for the day" Sebastian explains," then I have to choose the corresponding vehicle and prepare the measurement set up in the truck so I'm able to capture every single piece of data that is required."
"If these tests are for a new software version, then I have to update the control unit of the truck and make sure that every single parameter is set correctly. Once I've checked the truck is running fine, I can start the driving maneuvers outlined in the test cases."
Driving on track
Test cases and driving maneuvers vary a lot. Sebastian says: "On the one hand, there are tests which can be performed very quickly. Simple braking maneuvers or standstill functions like Hill Start Aid for example, but even these require time to check the precise measurements. On the other hand, other test cases may need a particular set of inputs from within the truck, meaning the maneuver can take longer to get right."
A day of testing can vary between these complex cases and the more simple ones. Sebastian says: "A complex or highly dynamic maneuver may require to be repeated several times until it's completed correctly. This means that sometimes you can just get a small number of test cases completed in one day."
Each WABCO test track has a variety of surfaces and testing areas to help engineers like Sebastian test new technology under all sorts of conditions and situations. Sebastian says: "To thoroughly test a function, such as ABS braking, I repeat the same tests with different speeds on different surfaces, during straight driving or cornering and in transition with other functions. This is to ensure every part of the technology gets tested".
A day on track isn't without its challenges. "It cannot be assumed that the truck constantly runs without problems," Sebastian says. "These can range from anything like a low battery, issues with the clutch or engine or several other issues, which are not related to the braking system - all in all, these need to be fixed before we can undergo testing. In the end, I'm responsible for getting the truck running again because I'm using it." While Sebastian might be the one behind the wheel, testing this forward-looking technology is a team effort. New software can often throw up issues that are difficult to catch during digital simulations, which is precisely why this real-word testing is so important.
Sebastian says: "If something doesn't work, I either have to reproduce it or to call my colleagues to get support from the software side. Failures can also come from the parameter sets so we have to find out which parameter is the root cause and what the correct values should be."
Testing under extreme conditions
It is essential that test activities are run under all conditions. WABCO's test track in Finland is designed to test these systems in extreme cold, for instance. With icy, low- friction surfaces, the test drivers are able to see how the new or modified systems work when exposed to these harsh conditions. Sebastian was recently involved in a winter test cycle in Finland. He says: "Especially under cold conditions and on very slippery surfaces, our systems must work fine. Testing in Finland helps us because it allows reproducing these conditions easily."
This ensures safety in all conditions once the system is industrialized and mounted on vehicles driving on public roads where severe winters are a possibility.
Reporting the results
Sebastian keeps in close touch with his colleagues monitoring the test cases, but it's his job to report back at the end of the day too. He says: "If I observed some issues in the software, I have to create problem reports for them and provide all my observations and measurement data to our engineering colleagues so that they can investigate them".
Testing ...all the way
WABCO's experienced test team is focused on creating testing programs that cover every aspect of these forward-thinking systems. However, even after rigorous testing, the product still isn't ready to hit the roads. Another testing phase is carried out with the customer. Sebastian explains: "When the braking systems under development are at a mature enough stage, customers can perform their own tests to evaluate them and make sure that they have enough mileage to prove that they will work over the long term."
WABCO's ability to innovate in the vehicle industry is not only rooted in its capability to develop new technologies, but it also relies on thorough testing and validation for our customers. For this, WABCO can depend on passionate test engineers and drivers who relentlessly monitor its system's software and hardware, as well as perform the hard work of putting vehicles through their paces on the test tracks in Germany, India and Finland.