Brand-New Audi A4 quattro S Line for Research: BFFT retools vehicle for simulation of dynamic glare
The Ingolstadt-based automotive engineering developer BFFT has converted a brand-new Audi A4 quattro S Line into a research vehicle for Aalen University. The vehicle will allow for studies on glare from oncoming traffic to be performed in the university’s driving simulator.
Who would buy a brand-new Audi A4 quattro S Line that isn’t licensed for use on the street and isn’t roadworthy? The buyer is the “Vision Research” competence center at Aalen University, which plans to use the Audi as a research vehicle for scientific studies. After the vehicle left the Audi plant in Ingolstadt, it was brought to the workshop of automotive engineering developer BFFT. There, in just six weeks, it was converted to a research vehicle for simulating dynamic glare (glare from oncoming traffic) on behalf of Aalen University. The researchers in Aalen are rightfully proud of “their” Audi, which has been located at AMPEL (Aalen Mobility Perception and Exploration Lab) since late August.
There, in collaboration with the Würzburg Institute for Traffic Sciences, they are attempting to find out how people with cataracts react to glare and how we can measure their visual function – e.g. using a “head-up display”. Because people who drive at night or as the sun is setting are often blinded by oncoming vehicles – an all too common cause of serious accidents. This is something the German Social Accident Insurance, which is sponsoring the research project, would like to prevent.
The Audi A4 has undergone a complex modification: The experts from BFFT Vehicle Integration began by removing the engine, tank, transmission and control units due to fire safety concerns. Normally, the vehicle would then display a number of error messages. So the BFFT team Development Concepts & Tooling created a software program, which creates a simulation to tell the vehicle that everything is OK, preventing interference from error log entries. Another program allows for display elements (e.g. head-up display, speedometer) to be activated individually and various (warning) symbols to be displayed for the test subjects. BFFT also installed an electrical force feedback steering wheel, as well as special foot pedals to give the test subjects a realistic driving experience. And for test subjects to keep a cool head after long hours in the laboratory, the A/C has to work, too. So the developers installed a new electric motor in the empty engine compartment which uses a tension strap to drive the A/C compressor, providing cooling at the push of a button. Then, to supply all these additional electronics with power, BFFT also constructed a power current socket and a separate back-up battery. Finally, the entire vehicle was foil-coated in matt black in order to exclude any interference from reflections in the paint.
“BFFT has years of experience in vehicle modifications and is a specialist in human subject research. These skills enable us to implement complex modifications in a short amount of time and as a one-stop shop,” explains Florian Weiser, Head of Vehicle Integration at BFFT. The researchers at Aalen University were enthusiastic about this, too, and mentioned repeatedly how competent and constructive BFFT was as partner.