At the opening of their new Research and Development centre Ansible Motion opened their new state of the art driver-in-the-loop simulator which looks to revolutionise testing and driving within the motorsport industry as well as in the real world.
Ansible Motion was set up by Kia Cammaerts in 2009 and is currently based at the Hethel Engineering Centre of Excellence in Hethel. The company now has 12 employees all working on Research and Development, launching the new simulator to the public last week. Ansible had started work on it four years ago and are looking to expand the British company in the future. The simulator is designed to be specifically made for use in land vehicles.
The simulator introduced to the media was one of three series. The Theta Series model is designed to be more compact and used for smaller tests, while the Sigma series model are made for stationary use in order to test human factors and ergonomics.
The model shown off was the Delta Series. A machine that is designed to be as realistic as possible in order to be the best experience for a driver. When asked, Phil Morse, had said the Delta series was designed to help professional test drivers. It has been hard in recent years for professional test drivers to give accurate feedback on the cars performance or with new equipment in simulators, as it lacks a sense of realism.
The idea behind the model was to make it more responsive. To do this the machine had to be lighter, as to allow it to move easily. Machine reactions are important, as the driver would like immediate feedback if they are to give a truly objective view on the upgrades performance.
Compared to the Existing Market
The company doesn’t consider itself to have any rivals, however; the simulator was made as an upgrade on current Hexapod Simulators. The market leaders are planning to have the Delta Series as a land vehicle specific simulator.
The issue with larger Hexapods is their weight. The idea (in road car production) is that cars can be driven on as to test out real life conditions, however; the size can this can be slow to react. The spongy hydraulics were originally made for aircraft production, but have not the responsiveness for professional development, although it did include pitch unlike the Ansible Motion machine, this was decided not be necessary in road/ race cars.
There is also a large cost associated with it. Because of the scale of Hexapod models, tonnes of concrete are needed as to safely support it. While the large frame is designed for larger cockpit areas. This all contributes towards the cost, which can be up to £100 million. Meanwhile; the Norfolk-based company have been able to produce it at a cost of £2 million.
The Delta Series has managed to reduce its weight by using an aluminium structure for strength to weight ratio as well as a carbon fibre monocoque. While the 8 metre screen and 240 degree angle with 5 projectors, provides the best coverage for the driver. By having the current technology it is designed to reduce driver sickness during long testing and create an immersive environment, all of this should further help professional test drivers as one third of users had reported to feel motion sick after use of the Hexapod, an issue which would limit testing.
Applications in Motorsport
As mentioned, the simulator is designed to provide the best quality British engineering and should be used to help reduce costs amongst designers. By being able to input data of potential new parts in the form of code, this reduces the teams need to build parts beforehand. This reduces on their material cost and can reduce overall time if a new part is unsuccessful.
Before the team folded at the end of 2014, Ansible Motion had been set to provide Caterham F1 with a new simulator for the 2015 season, and while this may have fallen through, this may be a viable cost for the future amongst many top tier teams as governing bodies look for a way of reducing costs and remaining competitive.
Because the system is modular this helps to further reduce costs as areas can be taken out and replaced as technology improves and systems become faulty. This could save companies millions of pounds, however; Phil Morse, the Technical Liaison admitted, “The modular section took the most time and money to develop with the system.”
The immersive environment can have changes set that vary over time with the company suggesting they could set simulations of realistic tyre wear with other settings in place. Rather uniquely to Ansible they have managed to produce the world first driver-in-the-loop system so the driver can give realistic feedback to the car while driving.
What is Driver-in-the-Loop?
When designing systems like these, designers have to take into account the Human Factors. This is notable because the speed of reaction on the wheel needs to be translated to the screen. The unique asset about the Delta Series Simulator is that it responds faster than is noticeable for a human. This means that from this point on, more can be put in to develop the Vehicle Dynamics.
The machine; as a result can now react to the humans driving style and change as to fit them and to acclimatise them in the machine. Data when testing can often be affected by behavioural factors, the advantage of the system is that it can respond enough to the driving style to still give reliable information.
To an extent, the driver-in-the-loop system can also enhance the entertainment value. This could open up possibilities in the company in the future to move into gaming equipment and a new industry.
The company hopes to continue its close association with Lotus at its current Hethel base. With many of the staff having come from Lotus in the past the experience is there to move the company forward. While the company admits that the Norfolk facilities and location as well as the local skills are still ideal for it in further development.
The company will look to sell its development projects on to existing companies and has admitted it is in talks with a few. While many remain secret for the moment, the company admits that Ford has expressed an interest in the simulators.
In terms of research and development, the company will look into developing simulators with motors and drive systems in the future, but admits it will be costly. In the meantime, they hope to make the experience more immersive and professional, suggesting that use in Autonomous cars could be a possibility in the future.