Three students worked on a project entitled Mini VIL at IPG Automotive between August 2015 and March 2016. During the venture, Jannik, Markus and later also Ayoub developed a small demonstration vehicle in order to show how the Vehicle-in-the-Loop method works. We would like to present the project publicly and therefore asked them about their experiences, impressions and technical details.
Hello everyone! What fascinates you about cars?
Markus: I am actually interested in anything that moves. My father manages a driving school, which means I came into contact with motorcycles and cars at a very early age. I have been passionate about both for as long as I can remember – be it taking to the road myself, tinkering about with them or developing components or systems as part of my studies.
Ayoub: My interest was first sparked by my degree. I moved to Germany four years ago to continue studying. In particular, mechatronics was recommended to me, which is why I decided to specialize in the automotive sector during my studies.
Jannik: I believe that the car combines a variety of technically interesting subsystems into an everyday product. Most of all, I have been eagerly following developments leading us towards a greater degree of connected and automated driving.
You are either employed as a student or are undertaking an internship here at IPG Automotive. What were the circumstances that led you to work independently on such a relatively large project and who set the wheels in motion?
Jannik: I have been working here since August 2013 and had time for a new project after completing my bachelor’s thesis.
Markus: While working at IPG Automotive, one of the product managers came and spoke to us about some initial ideas for a “mobile driving demonstrator”. After he had given it some more thought, the concept became clearer over the course of several discussions, and we were eventually able to create a requirement profile. The project was ideal for students because there was no strict schedule, and it enabled or, in some cases, even required us to explore things by trial and error.
The Mini VIL project took you until March 2016 to complete. How did it progress exactly? Did you decide from the outset who was responsible for the various aspects of the project?
Markus: Since Jannik and I had been working for the company for quite a bit longer than Ayoub and had been there when the initial ideas were discussed, we were able to move developments forward very independently. When Ayoub started his internship, his daily involvement with the project meant that he was able to get up to speed quickly. We compiled and shared out a list of tasks on a weekly basis.
Ayoub: We each worked through the tasks allocated to us. However, at the end of the day, because our aim was to establish what did and did not work, it was important for each of us to have a good overview of the entire project.
As your starting point, you more or less took the workings of the Vehicle-in-the-Loop method used for the VW Golf demonstration vehicle. What similarities and differences are there between this system and yours?
Jannik: Both systems have the same basic concept of moving a real vehicle with a real driver and advanced driver assistance systems in a virtual world. In both cases, this requires the synchronization of the position, movement and orientation of the virtual and real vehicle. One fundamental difference is that with the mini VIL drivers have to follow the interventions of the assistance system from outside the vehicle, while the “large” VIL method enables them to experience them from the driver’s seat.
Markus: There is of course a difference in vehicle size – but, joking aside, the Golf is a series production vehicle with a correspondingly complex system, whereas our car is ultimately just a demonstrator. However, both of them perform the functions essential for driving, namely propulsion, braking and steering.
Let us turn our attention specifically to your demonstration vehicle. Which IPG Automotive products do you use and which assistance systems can be demonstrated using the mini VIL?
Markus: Our objective was always to develop a similar system to our VIL Golf. We took a customary model vehicle and – like in the Golf – fitted it with a RoadBox (Xpack4). By working with CarMaker/HIL, our method allows driving maneuvers to be performed in real time. Currently, the emergency brake assist, collision avoidance system and adaptive cruise control functions can be tested.
Looking back at the project, what went particularly well? And were there any challenging moments?
Jannik: In the first few weeks of implementing the project, we were particularly pleased that we were able to attach the RoadBox to the vehicle without having to make too many mechanical adjustments. We were also happy that despite the extremely heavy weight of this additional component – in comparison to the overall weight of our vehicle – we were still able to ensure satisfactory vehicle handling and performance. Although integrating our self-built wheel speed sensors and inertial sensor technology proved somewhat more challenging, here, too, we were eventually able to position them with a sufficient level of accuracy. Fortunately, we were then able to integrate various driver assistance controls successfully into the mini VIL system.
Markus: Needless to say, it is extremely rare for a project to go exactly according to plan. We had some minor difficulties with reading the sensor data and coordinating some of the vehicle’s controls. Conversely, other aspects that had caused us concern during the preliminary stages of the project turned out to work surprisingly well.
Ayoub: As you would expect, we sometimes thought that everything was in order, only for the demonstration vehicle to refuse to start. Then, of course, we had to begin the lengthy search for the source of error. However, all in all, most things worked pretty well.
After many months of work, you have created an extremely advanced project. Can you summarize the benefits of demonstrating the VIL method on this scale?
Jannik: Due to its compact size, the mini VIL can be packed in a crate, allowing it to be transported simply and inexpensively in both Germany and abroad. This makes it easier to demonstrate the Vehicle-in-the-Loop concept in a wide range of locations around the world. Moreover, the system can be operated in a smaller space than its larger counterpart. One future area of use could be at the ADAS seminar run by IPG Automotive and the Munich University of Applied Sciences, where the mini VIL could be employed in place of a large vehicle to demonstrate driver assistance functions.
Will the demonstration vehicle be extended for this purpose?
Jannik: A student project being conducted at the Munich University of Applied Sciences is aiming to integrate additional features (starting with side protection assistance based on genuine ultrasonic sensors) into the current demonstrator so that the vehicle can showcase other ways of using IPG Automotive’s hardware and software solutions.
How would you sum up your time working for IPG Automotive to date? And what was it like to work independently?
Ayoub: Since I am yet to attend the vehicle dynamics lecture series at university, I found the task of familiarizing myself with the topic rather challenging. I have nevertheless been able to learn a great deal in a short space of time. As an intern, it was definitely a lot of fun to make a relatively independent contribution to such a project. I am remaining at IPG Automotive, having started a student job in April.
Markus: It is great to be given the opportunity to work independently in the knowledge that your superiors trust you to produce good results without the need for constant supervision. Other than that, the project was very interesting to work on because it involved a wide variety of tasks. These ranged from the mechanical integration of the components into the vehicle and the mechatronic connection of the sensors and RoadBox modules to software development in CarMaker and adaptations to the assistance systems.
You have been given the opportunity to find out a lot more about advanced driver assistance systems. What plans do you have once you have finished your studies? Would you like to work in this sector in the future?
Markus: It is never very easy to predict your own future. Nevertheless, it has been great to discover how driving can be influenced by various assistance systems. I would like to remain in the field of chassis design/vehicle dynamics once I have finished studying. Regardless of where I actually end up working, I believe that I will definitely come into contact with advanced driver assistance systems again.
Jannik: Like Markus, I do not want to make any overly specific predictions about my future. However, since I find this field extremely exciting, it could well be the case that, for me too, this will not be the last time I work with advanced driver assistance systems.