Extreme Testing

When it Rains, It Pours

Researchers test vehicle performance in special facilities built to mimic monsoon rains and windstorms.

Weather Testing

Everyone complains about the weather, but auto engineers are doing something about it.

  • Automakers have built high-tech test chambers so engineers can evaluate products in different environments, ranging from -40 degrees to 130 degrees.
  • A model may spend 200 hours in a wind tunnel as researchers and stylists work to lower wind resistance and improve mileage. Aerodynamic drag accounts for about 20% of the energy a vehicle needs just to move through normal air resistance.

Durability Testing

An auto needs to withstand years of tough duty, so researchers keep studying how to extend a vehicle’s life… inside and out.

  • Even seats are tested for durability. Using robots, automakers research how people of all shapes and sizes affect the upholstery, seat cushions and seat structures over the life of the vehicle.
  • High performance extends to car doors too.  It takes 84,000 open-and-close cycles to simulate 10 years of customer use of a car door. This testing happens in a wide range of temperatures, just like real life.

84,000 Open-And-Close Cycles Simulate 10 Years of Customer Use of a Car Door

Real-World Testing

Proving grounds

Automakers test and perfect their products at huge, company-owned proving grounds, which include roads designed to replicate real-world conditions… with potholes, bumps and all.

Despite the fastest computers and sophisticated test chambers, a model still needs to be tested in the real world.

  • Many operations of a vehicle can be simulated by computer, but engineers need to understand how different systems in an auto interact with each other. Often that can only be done through actual use.
  • It’s a global industry and testing is worldwide, too.  A model may be driven in extreme conditions like the jungles of Brazil and the mountains of New Zealand.  Research in the Southern Hemisphere can extend the seasons for testing and speed up development.

Going… and Going

To test for durability, an automaker can easily rack up 2 million miles of on-road and track testing on a single model of vehicle. That equates to 80 trips around the world.

Rigorous Processes

Tested, Re-tested, Certified… on the Road to Market

As one of the most regulated products in the marketplace, the automobile undergoes rigorous processes to become certified according to engineering and regulatory standards.

  • Through the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), 14,000 mobility experts in 100+ countries have provided data resulting in more than 2,600 globally recognized standards for motor vehicle transport.
  • An auto must comply with more than 200 government safety and environmental regulations in the U.S. alone. Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations, which is the section addressing environment, is actually longer than the U.S. tax code.

Case Study:

Substantial changes to the federal law on occupant crash protection (FMVSS 208) added 50 tests to the auto development cycle, including new crash tests, new test dummies and new airbag requirements.

50 New Tests Have Been Added to the Auto Development Cycle

Results from any one of these tests can require vehicle changes, from simple recalibrations to significant re-design and re-testing.