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Q&A with Marco Darin, Fiat R&D

Three teams at FCA have collaborated on the development of a new monitoring system for collecting test data. The R&D engineer explains more


Tell us about the new monitoring system that you’ve developed.
It was developed to help test engineers manage and analyze large amounts of data collected in long, experimental test programs. For the automotive industry this is an important methodological activity that will have a deep impact on the production of new vehicles, playing a key role in the challenge of reducing product development times and thus on the overall competitiveness in the market. When we started discussing the problem surrounding this activity, and how to solve it, we realized there was no low-cost market solution.

Who worked on the project and how long did it take?
Three teams from FCA R&D worked together on the project, consisting of: the info-telematic systems group of the CRF Trento branch, focusing on telematic system architecture and components; the chassis and vehicle dynamics group of CRF Orbassano, focusing on algorithms and vehicle performance; and the vehicle validation and durability group of FGA Balocco Proving Ground, focusing on durability methodologies and tests. The system was designed and developed in one year, which was an intense period of time to implement architecture and components, but also to have a preliminary validation of an automated procedure to analyze durability test execution.

How does it work?
Durability and performance tests accelerate the life of a vehicle in terms of fatigue in a restricted period of time and a preset number (several hundred) of kilometers. The tests are organized into a complex modular structure that the vehicle has to complete in cycles, avoiding structural damage, which has a negative time impact due to spare-part supply. Thus, driver training is very important, but so is the early detection of vehicle degradation. And in case of failure, it is also important to have all the information to help diagnostic activities. For these initial tests we have designed and developed a low-cost system that automatically monitors test execution and vehicle behavior during the test to promptly identify, in an objective way, component degradation before serious failures occur. At the same time, the system collects vehicle information (CAN signals and other additional geo-referenced sensor data).

The architecture and components are based on a telematics datalogging system consisting of more rugged onboard units (smart dataloggers: ECU, sensors and wiring), each one integrated into a vehicle under test, and one offboard unit (PC server) for data management and processing. The main functionalities are: the in-vehicle geo-referenced datalogging (acquisition and recording) of CAN signals expanded with three-axial accelerations and damper temperatures; the in-vehicle driver trainer; the connectivity among onboard units and offboard unit; and the offboard data analysis to monitor and validate durability test progress, to view (graphically) related data records and to evaluate losses of performance in vehicle subsystems.

What key considerations did you take into account and what challenges did you face?
We focused on three key considerations: the first, a target cost for the onboard unit, which we wanted to be highly competitive as a commercial measurement system; the second, we wanted it to be a robust onboard unit in order for it to survive the durability tests; and the third consideration was that we wanted to achieve maximum flexibility and usability. There were several challenges that we faced, but the major one was the selection of suitable automotive hardware, robust for the application, and at the same time reasonably priced. A second challenge was the study of algorithms able to identify the trend of performance losses – algorithms that have never been implemented before.

How do you see the future for this system?
We hope that a pervasive use of the system will generate a positive impact on product development processes. In the future, we would like to extend the system by integrating other durability testing methodologies, for instance powertrain and corrosion.

See more on Fiat's R&D facilities in the September issue of Automotive Testing Technology International and this year's issue of Crashtest Technology International.


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