This article first appeared in the Railway-News magazine, Issue 1 2023.
On-track testing of new and modified rolling stock is difficult and can be expensive. Ilse Vermeij, Product Manager Testing at Ricardo, explores how virtual testing can reduce real-life test requirements, improving project performance.
Question: Why do we need virtual testing?
Ilse Vermeij: In the certification phase of new or modified rolling stock, I see traditional on-track testing becoming more and more difficult and consequently more costly for clients. Limited availability of test tracks, stricter safety requirements and high costs to plan and replan test runs are often key reasons for testing challenges experienced.
In addition, on-track tests are not always desirable from a safety perspective as some tests can be damaging
to the trains or the infrastructure. Obvious destructive examples are derailment and crash tests. Therefore,
to minimise costs and track testing time required, I believe that it is increasingly important to consider and use innovative alternatives where possible, to reduce the on-track testing scope in projects.
Q: What is virtual testing?
IV: Virtual testing (or virtual certification) is a useful alternative to physical testing. Virtual testing can mean full computer simulations, but it also includes tests where the system to be evaluated is placed in a simulation environment. This is known as ‘hardware in the loop’ or ‘software in the loop’ testing. At Ricardo we have developed many possibilities to test both vehicles and infrastructure virtually. In my opinion, it is likely that vehicle testing will never be fully virtual, but it can certainly help significantly reduce the on-track test requirements, saving clients both time and money.
Even if you have access to on-track test facilities, you should still consider virtual testing. Its use can reduce both planning and safety risks significantly and reduce the overall project cost. Who can ignore these benefits? How much time and money is saved depends on the balance between the effort needed to create a model, and the cost of on-track testing. If an existing model can be reused, then virtual testing becomes very interesting.
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