On 12 May 2022, automotive test specialist AB Dynamics posted this smashing self-driving video of its recent work with NASCAR, developing “a driverless solution for conducting a 130mph crash test”:
The on-track planned accident, featuring the “Next Gen” NASCAR race car, was conducted at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, with the aim of generating real-world crash test data to correlate with simulations.
The test vehicle was driven at 130mph (209km/h) on a pre-programmed course into the wall, hitting a precise point in the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barrier at an angle of 24 degrees.
The hardware used included AB Dynamics’ SR60 driving robot for steering and CBAR600 for pedals, plus its Gearshift Robot – all off-the-shelf products.
The inputs were provided by AB Dynamics’ path following software, which used pre-recorded driving information and geometric GPS data to accurately navigate the route.
This package ensured the vehicle hit the wall at 130.015mph within one degree of the prescribed angle.
Craig Hoyt, Business Development Manager at AB Dynamics, said: “The challenge was trying to get this extremely complex machine to do a very precise test without a human driver piloting the car.
“AB Dynamics robots allowed NASCAR to use a fully running race car and conduct the test at a real race track at real race speeds. There is no better data than replicating crash tests in a real environment and our robots enable us to do that accurately and repeatedly.
“This is one of the highest speed crash tests we have ever conducted and the robots only suffered minor damage. It really is a testament to the safety of the vehicle, the barriers and the ruggedness of our products.”
John Patalak, Managing Director of Safety Engineering at The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), said: “This is a truly innovative way to test the safety of vehicles in motorsport. The data we obtained from the test was extremely important and was not possible to get from any crash test facilities at the time.
“The test provided valuable information for correlation with our computer crash simulations and confirmed that the predicted vehicle impact performance from the simulation was duplicated in this real-world crash test.”
The video is another great demonstration of high-speed self-driving, following the PoliMOVE car setting a new world speed record (192.2mph) on the famous Space Shuttle landing strip at Cape Canaveral in late April.