Motoring News

What’s missing from a battery buggy? ‘The noise, bro!’

Simulations give coming Fords unique experience
Best cabin experience ‘critical’ for future driving
Simulators answer to the big V8 burble


PRETORIA, South Africa – The burble of a high-performance Ford V8 Mustang will capture attention as it drives but in the cabin normal conversation is possible. The Corner thinks it might also make your skin tremble..

Anyway, behind this contradiction is Ford’s Noise, Vibration and Harshness team led by section manager Pat O’Mahony and sharing space with Ford Australia’s proving grounds.

”Refining NVH,” Ford says, ”is critical to give customers the safest and best cabin experience. The harshness of a vehicle can tire the driver and stress the vehicle’s structure.”

KEEPING A HAND ON THE WHEEL. Human ears all part of the Ford sound evaluation. Image: Supplied

Ford has three main NVH simulators…

Desktop Simulator. Similar to a PC car-racing game. It has monitors, computers with fast processors, a steering-wheel, headphones with which an NVH team can place a vehicle in several scenarios and listen to its NVH characteristics.

Full Vehicle Simulator. The same as stepping into a vehicle and driving it. This simulator takes account of the interior noise and tactile vibrations during normal driving.

On-road Simulator. Ford’s newest and most advanced NVH simulator. It uses an NVH simulation built on the desktop simulator but downloaded to hardware connected to a module in a vehicle that can be road-driven to simulate live engine and exhaust notes.

It gives the impression of real-world driving but using sound from a different car. Example: An engineer can take the sound of a Mustang from the desktop simulator and download it into the on-road simulator in, for instance, a Ford Explorer.

The driver can then toggle between NVH sound qualities to see which best suits the character of the vehicle.

HUMAN INTERVENTION: Driving sounds reproduction might need assistance from computers but they still need a hand on the wheel. Image: Ford America

Mahoney enlarges: ”Simulation is handy for breaking-down problems during various test phases. We can quickly isolate where sound’s source; we can deconstruct the car to isolate induction noise, road, or engine sound to identify the potential problems.

”The data can guide the test team that may hear or feel something in the car but they don’t yet know where to look for the problem.”

Advantages of simulating NVH

BEFORE NVH SIMULATION the team had to share prototype vehicles for testing with product development engineers. During such time the vehicle will be dismantled, modified, and re-assembled and will greatly affect the outcome of the NVH tests.

Simulation will gather the entire NVH team in a room to hear the NVH characteristics without disrupting testing of a vehicle prototype.

NVH simulations, Ford says, can seriously affect the timeline and cost of developing a vehicle. Technical leader with the NVH simulator, Carl Landgraf, told The Corner: “Traditional vehicle NVH testing would take an exhaust off one vehicle and put it on another. This is very time-consuming and in most cases hearing the differences are washed off because you couldn’t test them within the same day.

”Now you can test these sounds in the simulator using a few mouse clicks.”

How accurate is the NVH simulator?

FORD LEVERAGES its years of accurate data collection and best processes to build the NVH simulation. Analysis is carried out on a higher scale compared to ordinary NVH tests standard in the industry. Using the early years of NVH simulator development ensured maximum accuracy of all data going in or out of the simulation.

O’Mahony again: “Ford America deconstructed a current production vehicle and reconstructed it in simulation. They ran prescribed tests and nobody could tell the difference between the two.

”Quality outcome using the simulator comes down to the quality of inputs.”

Challenges for the future

THE EVOLUTION OF powertrains is coming, Ford says: ”Switching from the combustion engines with which we are familiar to electric also poses a challenge for NVH engineers such as O’Mahony and Landgraf.

“The challenge as we move into electric powertrains will be different: the sound of an internal combustion is lost,” says O’Mahony. “Electrical sounds not present from an internal combustion engine will be introduced and will bring a whole new set of challenges such as road and wind, given the near-silence of an electric vehicles are.

”Coming up with sound-absorbing materials that are lighter becomes a challenge.”

Landgraf added: “Exterior noise will also be a problem in electric vehicles. There is a DNA sound as each vehicle approaches and passes. There’s also a legal noise requirement that electric vehicles have to meet to be able to warn pedestrians of their approach.”

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