Road tests. When you hear those two words, you might get all giddy and excited. Track tests mean new sounds and record attempts that can go in two ways, while road tests provide spy shots that reveal too much. They
are were the basis of the automotive world because it’s it was the only way to perfect a car in terms of handling and behavior. The strikethrough in the previous row is there on purpose. It was the only way in the past, but with Porsche Virtual Prototypes springing in action, one has to question the longevity of in-real-life track tests.
Testing a car in real life involves many things, mainly lots of money. In order to test a car on a track or road, the car itself has to exist. Then there’s fuel, tires, parts, transportation, crew and lastly renting the track. Over the years, the only way to do a test is to actually have everything above and drive. But, with the era of technology progressing at an incredible pace, Porsche is able to do all their testing virtually.
At The Heart Of The Porsche Virtual Prototypes
How the system works is simple, but what it can achieve is extraordinary. I would describe the ingenious system as a hyper-realistic game, the real meaning of a simulation. As the name Porsche Virtual Prototypes suggests, the system features a digital version of the vehicles in their development stages. At the moment, Porsche is using the system to perfect the all-electric Cross Turismo and Taycan.
Key features of the virtual development models, such as the chassis, engine, suspension, and electronics, are modeled on a computer and then put through their paces in a virtually created environment. Porsche’s engineers have complete freedom in choosing the conditions in which the tests happen. With the use of complex algorithms, they can run the prototype through an infinite number of artificially created scenarios.
Porsche Virtual Prototypes allow for intense tests in order to find any weak spots before the real prototype is even in existence. So far, the virtual Cross Turismo racked up over 6 million virtual test miles in a very short time. As a result, the level of efficiency and pace of development increases drastically.
The virtual testing system features a couple of beneficial sub-processes, mainly revolving around the electrical system. One of them is called network simulation. It informs engineers about various critical factors. One example is the way the brains of the Cross Turismo handle energy management.
Perfected On The Nordschleife
The other sub-process is the ability to test the development prototype on any track they want. Since Porsche is German and the Nordschleife is the industry standard for track tests, the choice is a no-brainer. Thanks to the advanced characteristics of the Porsche Virtual Prototypes, the engineers managed to test the virtual Cross Turismo on the Green Hell about seven months before the real thing.
The outcome of the “track test” is nothing to be ashamed of either; a sub-eight minute time. However, the road, although risk-free, was not easy. Just like network simulation, the virtual track test focused on energy management, which is crucial in achieving the time in question. However, I have to wonder if they used a real person for the driving or was it all AI. Seeing that it’s a revolutionary system, the use of an AI along a path wouldn’t surprise me.
A Step In The Right Direction
I see some major benefits in the use of the Porsche Virtual Prototypes. The first one is a bit debatable; price. The system is surely not cheap, but once you have it, you have it at no additional cost. It’s maybe expensive at first, but over the course of the development stage, it’s well worth it financially.
It’s much more eco-friendly then track and road tests. Yes, the Taycan and Cross Turismo may be EVs, but the transport vehicles are probably not. Not to mention the batteries and fossil fuels necessary to charge them. The amount of waste once the prototype life cycle comes to an end is surely not disregardable.
And finally, Dr Robert Meier, the Taycan Complete Vehicle Project Manager, said it better than I can: “As well as being able to simulate individual assemblies and functions, we can also fine-tune the vehicle as a whole at a much earlier stage and in a more precise way. One thing remains clear: every Porsche contains the soul of a sports car, even if it features an electric drive and was developed digitally.”
Will Showrooms Exist?
The Porsche Virtual Prototypes may resemble a hyper-realistic game, but it’s the future of development and surely a thing of dreams for small manufacturers. I’m also pretty sure that virtual brochures will become a thing.
I’m a bit against the digitalization trend, but with the Earth in the state it is, this is more than welcome. I just hope that it won’t lead to an influx of models every couple of months on a general level…