Testing the connected car
Written by: Sarabjit Singh | Published:

Before in-vehicle wireless communications technology can be mass manufactured it must undergo rigorous testing. To mitigate this time-heavy expense automotive manufacturers can learn from the mobile comms sector, explains Sarabjit Singh.

Automotive manufacturers are equipping new vehicles with multiple wireless systems, leading to increased testing complexity and potentially more complicated, expensive and time-consuming test procedures. To address these challenges developers of new designs can benefit from adopting test methodologies used already by the mobile industry, including virtual drive testing, over-the-air antenna performance testing, interoperability and WLAN testing.

The connected car needs to integrate several cellular generations (2G, 3G and 4G) along with satellite communications technologies for navigation (e.g. GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BeiDou) and future wireless technologies for V2X (vehicle-to-everything, e.g. IEEE 802.11p). The introduction of these wireless technologies is leading to an increased level of complexity and a challenging radio environment, which automotive manufacturers have to address through rigorous testing to meet or even exceed end users’ expectations.

The fact that vehicles move at different speeds, directions and in different environments (e.g. rural or urban) leads to a large number of mobility and propagation scenarios. Developers need to take into account numerous fading profiles that present varying degrees of radio interference. It is well-known that testing car prototypes in the field to establish consistent performance across various local radio frequency environments can be both expensive and time-consuming.

Test solutions with network simulation capabilities
A simulator that realistically emulates both network and radio environments (replicating real-world scenarios and use cases in the lab) allows automotive manufacturers to mitigate these challenges as well as improve test rigour. This approach also reduces the need for extensive vehicle drive testing.

Anite has a range of lab-based wireless connectivity test solutions with full mobile network simulation capabilities for the automotive industry, which help to validate the performance of the connected car under real-world conditions. These include virtual drive testing, over-the-air antenna performance testing, as well as interoperability and WLAN testing.

Testing in-vehicle wireless comms can be made easier in laboratories

Virtual drive testing is a lab- based automated performance and interoperability testing method that accelerates product rollouts by integrating industry-leading lab and field test tools with a sophisticated test automation environment. The solution offers a more cost-effective approach to quality assurance testing in the design and development phases. Virtual drive testing significantly reduces vehicle drive testing by accurately replicating field mobility scenarios. The user is able to capture data in the field to build tests that replay drive routes in a virtual environment by emulating real-world RF network conditions in the laboratory using a network simulator.

By adopting virtual drive testing automotive manufacturers can significantly reduce shipping of prototypes across the globe, which in turn decreases development time and cost, as well as helping to keep new prototypes secret. With solutions like our Virtual Drive Testing Toolset, the user is able to verify numerous types of connectivity and capabilities including emergency call (eCall), breakdown call (bCall), stolen vehicle tracking, firmware over- the-air (FOTA), telematics unit updates and voice-over-LTE.

IMO OTA performance testing
To support higher data throughput original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are introducing advanced antenna technology such as MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output), a transmission technology for 4G cellular communications. This means they are implementing innovative antenna designs that offer adequate radio separation instead of single antenna solutions (e.g. a single shark antenna array on top of the car).

By adopting test methodologies such as Automotive OTA (over- the-air) OEMs are able to test the car antennas under real- world channel conditions, taking into account signalling from various directions and angles with different signal strengths. Automotive OTA also enables OEMs to conduct repetitive testing in the lab using multi-probe simulators.

About the author
Sarabjit Singh is a senior product manager responsible for the automotive vertical in Anite’s Device & Infrastructure Testing business. He is an expert on various wireless technologies with almost 20 years’ experience in the telecommunications industry.

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