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Wireless Networking Technology Speeds Automotive Testing

June 29, 2022
A new Wi-Fi-based technology lets auto engineers monitor tests results in real time.

Engineers at General Motors are the first to use backhaul technology developed at Cisco to conduct pre-production performance testing on vehicles. The wireless, Wi-Fi-based technology lets auto engineers monitor several hundred data channels simultaneously in real time during test runs to monitor vehicle operational parameters and modify the test as it’s being conducted (if necessary).

Pre-production vehicles are built specifically for validation testing to ensure cars or trucks perform as intended. During this development phase enormous volumes of performance data from a wide range of tests are collected. These results are then used to refine the pre-production vehicles before they are built and sold to consumers.

Without backhaul, data has been collected data on “black boxes” and could not be analyzed until after the full test was run; there was no way to analyze data during a test or changes the test on the fly. So, if there were issues with a vehicle system or test parameters that would render a test unusable, nothing could be done until the data was checked at an offsite lab after the test. Then the 30- to 60-minute test might have to be repeated, which wastes time and resources. Backhaul lets engineers identify any issues with the vehicle or test parameters during the test process and resolve them in real time.

Using earlier wireless networks to collect this pre-production data didn’t work reliably either due to the speeds the test vehicles were travelling, which often exceeded 100 mph.

To combat these problems, backhaul combines the reliability and speed of fiber connectivity with the flexibility of wireless communications. It delivers up to 500 Mbps. It features ultra-low latencies, high-bandwidths, seamless handoffs with zero packet losses and private mobile connectivity for mission-critical applications. It lets carmakers and other companies extend their networks wirelessly.

While backhaul is based on Wi-Fi, it is not an access technology. It can connect moving assets such as cars, AVG, cranes, tele-remote vehicle and trains, or extend networks when running fiber isn’t feasible or is too costly. It is also more reliable on wireless networks that cover areas prone to creating interference such as ports and warehouses, where stacks of containers or pallets can create dead zones.

At GM, backhaul is giving test engineers instant access to information, letting them be more actively involved and make real-time decisions during test runs to eliminate the need to re-run a test. This streamlines the testing process and saves time.

“Since deploying Cisco wireless backhaul at the performance tracks of our Milford Proving Ground, GM now has stable and secure wireless network connections in that environment where vehicle speeds that can exceed 100 mph,” says Stephen Jenkins, director, Global Labs, Proving Grounds Operations & Materials Engineering. “This connectivity lets us perform real-time analysis and stream information directly into our Enterprise Data Center without buffering or human intervention.”

“GM needed a mature solution to gain real-time visibility into vehicle test data, and they tested many technologies which all fell short,” said Michael Shannon, VP of engineering, Cisco IoT. “Since deploying backhaul, however, GM has shortened the engineering cycles and ultimately helped improve time-to-market for technical innovations.”

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