Advantages of virtual vehicle development

Modern vehicles have to follow a set of various requisitions. They have to withstand different environmental conditions without decrease in performance, keep the driver safe (especially in case of an accident), offer comfortable transportation and should be easy to operate as well. An efficient development process is a crucial necessity to meet these targets, especially in a world in which the decrease of the time between idea and serial production of products is gaining more importance. Changing parts of the vehicle development process to a virtual level is an important step to keep up with modern-days product development demands in a progressive customer orientated market.

In traditional vehicle development processes, physical prototypes are built at a relative early stage. These models are used for various tests aiming at the obtaining of data for the optimisation of the new concept. Virtual development tools can help to improve this process. Nowadays, various tools and methods for CAE (computer-aided engineering) already exist and are utilised. They allow simulations focusing on different aspects of the vehicle as well as the build-up of virtual prototypes. In this means, the term virtual prototype stands for a mathematical description of both the design state and of the vehicle properties.

It is beneficial to use simulation technologies before the construction of physical models, as the build-up of virtual model concepts needs fewer resources than the preparation of a physical prototype. Furthermore, production aspects and testing characteristics are more easily adapted on a virtual level. Therefore, multiple requirements and variables, like for example, quality, weight or different crash behaviour, can easily be tested. Additionally, the impacts of various external and process-specific aspects (e.g. used materials, size, costs) can be assessed. CAE tools therefore allow the testing of many different models over a shorter time frame, which leads to lower costs of the development process as a result.

Another advantage worth mentioning of virtual prototypes is the inclusion and optimisation of the design at an early level of the vehicle’s development process. As a result of the above-mentioned benefits, the amount of different, expensive prototypes for testing can be reduced. Only after the simulations are concluded, it is necessary to validate the obtained results on a physical model.