FCA's $10.1 million driving simulator most advanced in North America

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell




The $10.1 million driving simulator unveiled Tuesday at FCA’s Automotive Research and Development Centre in Windsor is an engineer’s dream toy, but one that will be a critical component of the company’s future plans.

The Vehicle Dynamics Simulator is the most advanced in North America and further enhances the importance of the Windsor centre to FCA.

“It’s going to make our product development more robust and efficient,” said FCA director of advanced concepts engineering Jim Lyijynen, who added the 4.5-ton motion platform offers an unmatched nine directions of movement.

“It’s quicker and less expensive to make changes in the virtual space.”

Software developer VI-grade designed the simulator and the Ontario government’s SouthWest Ontario Development Fund contributed financially to the project.

This latest addition at the centre brings FCA’s investment in the 215,000-square-foot ARDC to US $28 million in the last five years.

“VDS is cutting-edge technology that emulates a vehicle’s driving dynamics in a real time, virtual environment,” said Tony Mancina, head of engineering, FCA Canada.

“This new technology offers the driver a customized virtual immersion that replicates the ride and handling of a specific vehicle on a multitude of simulated road surfaces and driving environments.”

The simulator has the capability of recreating the sensation of real driving down to bumps, G-forces, sways and rolls.

The cab of a Ram 1500 pickup truck sits on a platform that looks similar to an aircraft simulator. The difference is the cab floats on three microns of air like an air hockey puck giving it the three additional senses of motion.

Engineers can change subsystems such as the brakes, steering, and speed controllers or test for driver distractions. The power train systems can be changed from traditional internal combustion engines to electric motors.

The simulator also has the capability of testing driver assistance applications, measure driver distraction and evaluate human machine interface configurations.

Engineers can also switch the simulator to any vehicle they choose or even change the cab if they desire.

It all adds up to a package that was remarkably real in recreating the driving experience.

“The focus of the simulator to start will be on improving the ride and handling of our vehicles,” Lyijynen said.

He said Windsor was chosen as the place to locate the simulator because of the related research already being done here.

“All these systems are interdependent and lot of these development labs are already here at the ARDC,” Lyijynen said. “We can test it all here.

“We can quickly make adjustments. That saves months and a lot of money in development.”

In addition to the driving simulator, the Windsor centre is the only place in North America FCA is conducting research into headlights, braking and chassis systems, seating and engine cooling systems.

Every brand FCA sells in North America has to endure the rattling, rolling and torture tests of the various labs employing the 180 people troubleshooting the company’s products.


“The Windsor ARDC is very significant to FCA,” Lyijynen said. “Canada remains an important part of the industry and to FCA. It will remain so to us in the future.

“In Canada, we’ve invested nearly US $1 billion in research and development in the last 20 years. As technology in the industry evolves, such as electrification, the ARDC will evolve as well.”