• Oct 15th 2010 at 10:28AM
  • 19
Virtual Buick tests world's toughest roads – Click above to watch video after the jump

Attack of the clones? Attack of the cloned roads is more apt, as the technical minds at Buick have developed a 3D road-scanning device to simulate some of the world's roughest roads. The scanner takes highly-detailed information about the road and translates it into 1s and 0s. The road is then modeled in a computer program that also features highly-detailed Buick vehicles. The "cars" are driven over the "roads" to see how the vehicles would stand up to the punishment in real life.

The scanner is able to accurately reproduce the road down to one millimeter. The Buicks are subjected to harsh conditions that will easily reveal squeaks, rattles and any other unwanted noises or equipment failures.

One of the preferred test routes is a Mexican road that leads to the Cerro del Cubilete shrine. The road is a rocky, winding stone path that tortures any vehicle driving on it. Buckle your seatbelt and make sure you don't have any loose fillings because we have video of the road, as well as the 3D scanner in action, after the jump.

[Source: General Motors]

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Buick Virtually Clones Toughest Roads
World's Most Challenging Terrain Tested


Detroit – It's a technology that would captivate anyone who grew up on video games. What if you could create an exact digital replica of one of the world's most challenging roads and then drive virtual cars on it to see what happens?

The inventors at Buick found a way to do just that. Istanbul native Mine (Mee-NAY) Tasci is part of a team of engineers that created an innovative road scanner that makes a micro-detailed 3D digital representation of some of the toughest real-world road surfaces. Then she drives equally detailed digital Buick vehicles on the digital roads to test for quality and reliability.

"Just like a photo scanner, we can scan the surface of a road to create a three-dimensional digital representation," said Tasci. The scanner works with cameras and a laser to determine a 3D model of a road surface down to 1mm of fidelity.

An interesting application of this new technology involves a road leading to Mexico's Cerro del Cubilete shrine. It's a twisting, rocky path that winds its way up toward one of the most important religious shrines in Mexico. Each day, pilgrims from throughout Mexico are jostled and bumped as they traverse the stone road of Cubilete.

If ever there was a road that could bring out vehicle rattles, squeaks and vibrations, Cubilete is it. "Customers who drive on that road complain about steering rack noise," said Tasci. "That's why we wanted to recreate this road so that we can test and ensure that our vehicles are up to the challenge of driving on roads like this one."

Buick submits new vehicles to rigorous virtual testing well before a physical prototype ever sees the light of day. Testing on challenging roads like Cubilete allows Buick engineers to find and address issues early on in the development cycle. "In the end, it leads to higher-quality, quieter and more comfortable Buick cars and crossovers," said Tasci.

Tasci, a native of Istanbul, Turkey, came to the United States to study at the University of Nebraska, where she was recruited by Buick. "I'm often asked if I experienced culture shock in coming from Turkey to the United States," said Tasci. "The biggest shock was coming from a big city like Istanbul, with 12 million people, to Lincoln, Nebraska, with a population of a quarter million. Lincoln is a great city, but it was difficult to find a good cup of Turkish coffee."

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      @apearlman Whether the road file is scanned from a real road or randomly generated, the necessity for a ~1mm resolution stems from the requirements of tire modelling. There is also substance in using real scanned roads due to the need to correlate your results to actual testing in the development cycle of a vehicle program.

      @TedBell Computer simulations are extremely accurate and they are all the top OEMs worldwide to drive vehicle design. Vehicle dynamics modeling is not like weather forecast modeling: One is man-made and follows simple laws of physics the other is natural phenomenon governed by many forces beyond our understanding.

      @sjg This article is a bit misleading: this is neither new nor pertinent to just Buick: it's used across the board on all GM products.
        • 4 Years Ago
        It's not even so much that weather models are beyond our understanding, it's that they are based-on, and are effected by a bazzillion different factors. Weather models are incredibly complex seeing as how some patterns span 1/2 the globe... an enormous amount of data is used to model the land, sea, river areas, but even that barely scratches the surface as to how much detail you would really need to model is accurately... we just don't have the computing power to do it.

        So when someone claims that just because weather prediction is many of times hit-or-miss, and thus ALL computer simulations are inaccurate, well that's just flat out ignorance.
        • 4 Years Ago
        *** EDIT: Computer simulations are extremely accurate and they are all USED BY the top OEMs worldwide to drive vehicle design
      • 4 Years Ago
      Scanning roads to a millimeter of detail is a cool trick, but is it necessary? Can't the computer just randomly generate a road surface for virtual testing? Change a few parameters, you can have a random road surface with big stones, a mix of big and small, assorted potholes... whatever you want. Why tune the suspension for specific crappy roads when you can simulate a huge variety of hypothetical crappy roads, no scanning necessary? Seems more marketing than substance.
      • 4 Years Ago
      amaising that we're talking about Buick and cloning and were NOT talking about rebadging.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Wow, even buick goes out of there way to avoid driving there own cars. :)
      Computer simulations just aren't that accurate, look at the weather models meteorologists use,they cost a small fortune and it can't predict anything. I can predict more from watching the radar or looking out the window. I respect computers, but this is no substitute for getting in the car and driving down a bumpy road.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Nice technology but why Buick? Does Buick have even one unique platform? Shouldn't this type of work be done at the GM level? Wouldn't the company be better off if this type of development was done one level up and the individual brands could then use the technology to develop their own cars?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Different GM divisions with different goals, presumably.

        Chevy is baseline, so nothing special.

        Buick tunes for ride comfort and quietness - NVH is relatively easy to model.

        Caddy tunes for performance, which requires track time, as it's harder to model slippage and so on.

      • 4 Years Ago
      With all this great tech coming through the pipeline, why would I ever want to buy a car nowadays? All the cool stuff is coming in a few years appearantly
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Alex: It's "vicious circle", not "viscous cycle". One is an intensifying feedback loop, the other is a washing machine filled with molasses.

        Anyway, it's not. It's actually just lusting after the next big thing instead of dropping your cash on what's available now, (or if you have half a brain, what was available three to ten years ago).
        • 4 Years Ago
        If that were the case than there would be no reason to buy a new TV, assuming you waited until the "next big thing" came out before purchasing your original one. The next big thing is what keeps consumer oriented companies in business.
        • 4 Years Ago
        car companies are into technological stagnation. the only cool change coming soon is that cars will be electric and that is despite the car makers fighting tooth and nail to avoid it. only global disaster is enough to make them innovate even a bit.
        they fought against seatbelts, airbags, collapsable steering column..
        those things only happened because the low forced them
        • 4 Years Ago
        Nah, in a few years when the cars are out that benefited from today's technology are on the road you'll still be able to say "All the cool stuff is coming in a few years appearantly (sic)".

        Its a viscous cycle that you'll never win.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I agree that what they are doing is fairly legit. But you would think with all of that computing power they would be able to just model and create their own insanely bad roads (even worse than in real life) to test the simulation. Why waste the money and time scanning real roads? seems like a farce to me
        • 4 Years Ago
        I'll bet you prefer self-love to sex, too..

        Reality is hard to create in proper detail down to the millimeter, so copying reality is a good decision. It's better and more sophisticated than guessing or testing on fake surfaces.

      • 4 Years Ago
      This is progress. Being a suspenion engineer for the Buick division today must be a lot more involved than in past years when they just fitted the softest springs they could find and called it a day.
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