UWE Bristol invests in driving simulator

Issue date: 04 November 2013


UWE Bristol has invested in a state of the art driving simulator to ensure that Motorsport and Automotive Engineering students are equipped for the real world of motorsport and automotive design; an industry increasingly reliant on simulation for driver training and vehicle research and development.

The driving simulator features a carbon fibre monocoque from a Formula 1 racing car placed on a plinth in front of a 180 degree wrap around screen. The simulator is situated in a specially equipped room creating an immersive experience that realistically mimics real driving in potentially any kind of car, existing or newly designed.

Dr Ben Drew, Programme Manager for both the Motorsport and Automotive Engineering courses, explains, “It is a crucial part of the engineering process that students can test their own designs. The driving simulator enables students to programme details from any type of car and to test drive these on a range of terrains.

Julian Bernard, a UWE Bristol Motorsport Engineering graduate, who now works at Force India Formula 1, built the simulator based on the simulator he developed for the Formula 3 team, Double R Racing, where he initially worked after graduating.

Julian Bernard said, “Simulation in respect of testing efficacy of Formula 1 cars has come on leaps and bounds since I was at university and all concepts are now tested in this way from aerodynamics to mechanics. There are many reasons for this, not least confidentiality around design detail. People coming into the industry now are required to understand how to utilise simulation tools as well as other concepts.

“I have kept in touch with lecturers at UWE and suggested that it would give students the edge if they integrated simulation with other aspects of mechanical engineering. The simulator that I have designed for UWE emulates those used by industry.”

Abbie Grange, third year Motorsport Engineering student who is heading up the Formula Student competitionentry from UWE this year, said “The new driving simulator is fantastic because we can now input our own values for all aspects of our designs and then see how they work. The responses in the simulator are so accurate that we can get a really good understanding of what we are building before we actually build it.”

Ben Drew continues, “What is critical is the way the simulator gives a fully immersive experience. It makes it so much easier to test vehicle dynamics and investigate changing parameters to check performance and handling if you are actually sat in car seat and feel as though you are driving.

“Our students enter the IMechE's Formula Student competition every year and this year they plan to take a finished vehicle to the competition at Silverstone. The students will be able to set up the vehicle with all the relevant parameters of their car to do some simulated testing, giving predictions of performance before setting up the real car. We have high hopes for the team this year as the simulator will give them an advantage in terms of vehicle setup.”

Undergraduate students are currently working on final year projects based on the simulator that include modelling different tyres for variable weather conditions and braking systems that enhance immersion.

UWE Bristol intends to work with organisations like the police, fire and paramedic services at developing training scenarios for professionals learning to drive in unusual conditions. Ben says, “Training drivers in simulated emergency vehicles is an excellent idea as it gives an opportunity to be placed in a range of potentially dangerous scenarios to practice how to deal with traffic when travelling at speed and also manoeuvring vehicles like fire engines when not out on emergency calls.”

Dr Catherine Hobbs, Head of Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics, enthuses, “It is especially gratifying to all of us in the Department that a UWE graduate actually designed the simulator we ended up investing in. It's proven evidence that our courses deliver top professionals capable of punching their weight in the real world once they leave the university.”

To view images of the simulator in action click here.

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