McLaren Applied Technologies

How McLaren is shaping the automotive industry by empowering manufacturers

Tim Strafford, Director of Automotive (LinkedIn Pulse)
McLaren Applied Technologies

Twenty years ago, McLaren pioneered the use of driver-in-the-loop simulators in Formula 1. As a result, 95 per cent of car setup work is now done in the virtual world before the real car goes to the track.

We see the same journey now starting in automotive development. It’s a very well-established industry, with set processes to get things done. A concept will be conceived and to validate the idea, the industry is still of the mind to prove its worth by making a real test vehicle. 

But how long does that take?

For more than a century, car makers have been evolving the same basic technology, typically based on a four-cylinder internal combustion engine. Now they’re facing a revolution towards electric and autonomous vehicles.

In this disrupted environment, those that can optimise towards a mature solution quickly, using virtual development tools, will triumph over those employing more traditional development methods. 

McLaren Applied Technologies combines simulation and decision science to push boundaries and create optimised products and processes. 

We are excited to have just launched the new MTS Vehicle Dynamics Simulator (VDS) designed by McLaren Applied Technologies. The VDS is just what the automotive industry needs to stay ahead of the curve, a next-generation driving simulator that can provide OEMs and tier 1 suppliers with state-of-the-art simulation capabilities. 

We’ve taken our F1 technology and adapted and developed a variant that’s completely tailored for the requirements of a road car. We haven’t thrown away any of the good stuff. It’s still high fidelity, high performance, high bandwidth and as accurate as it possibly can be. We’ve added extra dynamic capabilities such as more vertical motion than you’ve got in a Formula 1 car. 

Now, we’re able to do things that people couldn’t do before. You can put someone into the simulator, change aspects of the car and feel what that means for the driver. To give an indication of the level of accuracy of the platform, we can virtually relocate the driver to be seated in different parts of the car and the driver can feel the difference. With this level of fidelity, as well as vehicle concepts, our simulator can be used for handling and ride development – elements that have not previously been possible in a virtual environment for road cars. 

It’s an experimentation platform that allows the optimisation of concepts. You don’t have to spend months building something to drive it to see how it feels. You just tune it, get in the simulator and drive. 

Our expert team is finding solutions which allows manufacturers to be much more efficient and faster at developing, and quicker at optimising. But it’s not just about squeezing the development time, it’s about having a better product. The simulator empowers manufacturers to take more risks. 

Take the McLaren 720S. One of the key features that differentiates it is the active damping system. The driver-in-the-loop simulator allows technology like this to reach a level of maturity where the programme leads are confident enough to say, ‘Yes, we believe it’s ready, and commit it to the vehicle design’. The simulator allows more ambitious things to be committed to a vehicle programme. 

Differentiating yourself in the market, whatever industry you’re in, is about having the best differentiated products the soonest. The simulator means what you’re getting to the market is better than it would have been. It’s doubly better. It’s faster and it’s more optimised.

The simulator also allows you to develop and test ideas independently, without going out to suppliers. You can protect your ideas. 

It’s all part of our mission. We want to empower manufacturers to have more ownership of their own brand, their models, their journey. 

The Applied Technologies designed MTS Vehicle Dynamics Simulator allows them to do this behind closed doors, without losing ownership of their ideas, allowing their innovations to really be theirs, rapid, independent, unique. 

The exciting thing about the simulator in the automotive space is that it’s not just about the completely virtual environment, it’s about merging into the physical environments too. By example, in the pre: simulator world they might have a piece of test equipment that is designed to emulate a steering rack, with actuators to recreate the forces applied from the wheels as if it was actually on the vehicle. 

But in a world which includes the VDS simulator, we can now bring physical components into the virtual loop. From a completely virtual environment to a hybrid. The real steering rack can be exercised in this otherwise virtual world. 

Start to think about every element like that, and what you can achieve is endless. Together, we are enabling something that would otherwise only be possible by building a vehicle and driving it on a test track.

We see this simulator going right to the heart of everything, bringing the vehicle development team much closer to the physical devices themselves, streamlining the whole process. With our new simulator, we will empower manufacturers to get deeper insight, make better design decisions, and speed up development. 

So, I’m excited for the future. The VDS simulator is a continuation of the McLaren Applied technologies journey from racetrack to road. 

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