It’s hard to even imagine now, that there was a time when cars contained no electronics, no software and no computing power whatsoever and were purely mechanical machines. Back in the days “when everything was in black and white” – the quality of the ride was largely determined by the hardness of the suspension and the softness of your seat whilst risk was managed entirely by the driver. That’s all changed now of course and most cars not only run complex management systems but also host an ever growing array of driver aides to minimise the risks associated with human input and improve safety should something go wrong. With electric / hybrid vehicle numbers growing by the day and autonomous vehicles an inevitable part of the future roadmap of the automotive sector, our reliance on software and electronics to “deliver the goods” when it comes to the ride and handling experience of a vehicle are becoming more essential than ever.
It seems a little odd then, if software and electronic engineers are responsible for programming how a car should behave, that they rarely spend time at proving grounds, sitting in the car itself, evaluating the results of their input. Yes, they can run algorithms, programme hypothetical scenarios and strive to achieve key metrics but that’s not the same as sitting in a vehicle on a proving ground and feeling what the software / electronics are achieving first hand.
Let’s put the same notion into another scenario. Imagine I’m a chef … maybe a technical chef like Heston Blumenthal and I want to create an extraordinary dish that everyone will love and want to buy. I do my research, I run simulations with various ingredients to try out concepts. I understand the impact that increasing or decreasing various components will have on the dish. Then I create what I believe to be an almighty dish… only I’ve never tasted it. Not even a bit of it. I’m going to pass that over to a food evaluator or tester. They can’t cook… but they are good at testing and providing feedback. So they provide feedback… it’s pretty thorough feedback but they never truly knew what I, as a chef was actually trying to achieve in the first place. Even though I explained it explicitly, the tester will never completely get what I was trying to achieve, nor will I ever fully understand what it was like to eat my dish. The road to perfection would be very long, (perhaps never ending) packed with ‘back and forth’ interactions between two parties that can never quite get across exactly what they need for the ultimate goal to be achieved.
The result is more money and time spent on the process and a lower standard of product delivered as the end result.
As a specialist driver training company with unrivalled knowledge and experience of training people who work within vehicle dynamics and testing in the motor industry, we approached a number of software companies that (i) worked alongside vehicle manufacturers or (ii) are OEMs themselves. We asked them whether their software / electronic engineers were involved in testing. The responses varied from people looking at us like we’d just announced the world was made of cheese to those that thought it a good idea but didn’t know where to start and those that were already doing it. In general, the trend does seem to be moving towards software / electronic engineer involvement at the vehicle proving ground which is good news. If you’re one of the companies that are moving to this way of thinking, or work with an OEM or vehicle manufacturer that may ask you to do so in the future, your engineers will need to be trained to an appropriate level to fulfil contractual health and safety requirements.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A company driving for work policy
- Knowledge of how to carry out a vehicle safety check
- Awareness of how to identify and mitigate the risks of working on electric/hybrid vehicles
- Possibly a company car policy
- A proving ground licence
- The correct Public Liability insurance
- The ability to write a risk assessment for the tasks carried out
- To be trained to an appropriate level for the tasks carried out
- A graduated driver licence scheme (possibly)
Here at CAT Driver training, we work with a wide array of companies and individuals within the automotive sector and we’d be happy to provide you with further insight, information and training on request. To learn more about what you’ll need as an electronics or software company if you’re looking to attend proving grounds, contact us today on 01234 757 633. You can find out more information about us on our website – catdrivertraining.co.uk.