Automotive Transmission Testing

Bill McCaffrey

November 12, 2015

Rigorous stand-alone testing of the many physical components of automobiles is done as a standard part of the development process to allow manufacturers to work out the potential problems of a model before it goes into full production. After all, it is conventional wisdom that it's much less expensive to eliminate a problem before mass production begins than to discover a problem and have to fix it afterward.

Today, when developing a key structural component of a vehicle such as an engine, it is customary for an automotive manufacturer to use a standard testing framework in the form of an engine test stand to develop, characterize, and test those engines. For example, in the development phase most automobile OEMs are interested in designing engines with optimal fuel efficiency, durability, and that are in compliance with all relevant legislation on emissions, etc. An engine test stand allows the engine to operate in many different modes and offers measurement, control, and recording of the associated physical variables. This is required to catalog the many parameters that affect the engine’s design and performance.

Because there are a substantial number of factors potentially involved, it is difficult to take them all into account during development. A large number of tests are required to determine what may be needed to improve the engine’s performance. What makes all of this testing possible is the fact that engine test stands are automated test platforms that run specified tests to achieve the goals of the manufacturer. Automated tests can run fast and more frequently, which is also cost-effective and has been proven to improve the development process.

A sophisticated engine test stand “framework” typically consists of actuators that allow control of the engine state, sensors that measure physical variables of interest and data acquisition systems to log that data. The same types of test stands are also built for other key systems.

Would an auto manufacturer skip this step and not fully test an engine or transmission prototype? Of course not, that would be a recipe for disaster.  In that case shouldn't the components of the software systems in vehicles be isolated in similar frameworks? As automobiles have evolved from simple mechanical devices into incredibly complex machines, software now powers all major systems of the vehicle including: engine control, power train, transmissions, steering, braking, and entertainment. Automotive software controls basically all systems in a modern automobile and is as important– if not even more important– as the vehicles’ “metal,” and it also needs the analogous test stand to simulate the real world environment.   VectorCAST provides exactly this type of “test stand” or simulation environment for software, automatically enabling companies to efficiently build test frameworks for all of their application components.  

Statistics show that more than 50 percent of auto recalls are now due to software bugs, not mechanical issues. With an industry average of 8 bugs per thousand lines of code, and the average modern high-end car having 10 million lines of code, software quality needs to be at the top of the list for automotive OEMs.   If quality, customer satisfaction and ultimately cost savings matter to you, click here to learn how we can help.


[1]The connected car of the future: Get ready for more software bugs, GeekWire, Jan 5, 2015
[2] Million Lines of Code

Automotive Engine TestingAutomobile Steering TestingVectorCAST Test Harness