From Susanne Roeder
The young Stuttgart company aSR is accelerating networked, virtual automobile development with a compact driving simulator.
Stuttgart – The call for shorter development times in the automotive industry is not new. But in times of massive investments in new technologies and shrinking average profit margins per vehicle sold, it sounds louder than ever. “We want to network simulations and make them tangible,” says Marc Strobel, head of the Stuttgart start-up aSR. With their software platform and their compact driving simulator, vehicle manufacturers and suppliers should have tools at their fingertips with which different development departments can communicate with one another at an early stage.
Marc Strobel, Simon Gimpel and Christoph Gümbel is the name of the founding trio of aSR, short for “advanced simulated reality”. Your start-up with an office in Stuttgart’s Lautenschlagerstraße near the main train station wants to take this to a new level. The magic word is open platform. This means that any existing CAE software, i.e. software that digitally supports the development process (Computer Aided Engineering), can be integrated into the simulator.
The company sees itself as a platform operator
“We see ourselves as a platform operator. With little effort, our customers can network their usual development tools with our software platform, combine their models and functions in a virtual prototype and experience them in real time via the aSR simulator, ”says Strobel.
But it goes even further: different development departments in different locations can interact with each other via the aSR platform. This is not only a real advantage in Corona times. In the greater Stuttgart area, for example, the founders hope that a cooperation between Daimler and Bosch could soon look like this: A developer at Daimler and a developer at Bosch are each sitting in their aSR simulator and driving the same virtual vehicle in parallel. Christoph Gümbel describes the flexible and agile process as follows: “Everyone drives a certain scenario, called ‘load case’ in technical terms.
For example, the vehicle developer says: ‘Look what happens now if I change that.’ The development partner replies: ‘Perhaps the sensor signal is being misinterpreted. I’m going to do an update right away. ‘“In this way or something similar, the developers could communicate with each other from different locations and experience their developments together virtually, he says. The two developers do not have to arrange a meeting at a common location or book an appointment on the large simulator, but sit separately in their respective virtual vehicle, but can develop on the shared open platform and run through different load cases or scenarios together.
The relationship to the computer game is obvious
Playing gets to the heart of the matter. Because a part of aSR actually comes from the professional “play corner”, that of virtual motorsport. Marc Strobel worked in an agency as a project manager for Porsche Racing Simulators. These racing simulators are mainly used to introduce young target groups to the brand in a playful way. In contact with the then Porsche engineer Christoph Gümbel, the idea of using these simulators in vehicle development matured early on.
As head of the digital prototypes, Gümbel had recognized that the compact simulators from the computer game market could be significantly cheaper than commercially available simulators. Gümbel approached the young external colleague with the aim of using a Porsche racing simulator for the first time for Porsche development. The restless retired Gümbel never let go of the compact driving simulator. Together with Strobel, he developed the concept further. In the meantime, Simon Gimpel, the third member of the group of later aSR founders, was involved at Porsche in preparing the record drive of the fully electric Taycan on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife on the driving simulator. Strobel convinced him of the idea and brought him on board as technical manager.
The compact technology saves costs
But what exactly is the advantage of the simulators that the Stuttgart-based company intends to use to inspire development processes? After all, simulators have been used for decades to accelerate development processes and to postpone the construction of expensive prototypes as far as possible to the end of vehicle development. These simulators, however, are huge, need their own building infrastructure and cost at least half a million euros, sometimes in the tens of millions.
The prices for the simulators from aSR are only about a tenth of that, and in the end are lower by a factor of ten or more. In addition, the compact, modular driving simulator can be used directly at the engineering workstation. Data and model management can be centralized, and suppliers and service providers can be included in the processes. “An interface in the Internet cloud ensures that internal and external development partners can access a ‘marketplace’ for model data,” says Strobel. Ultimately, the simulator could also move into the dealership to demonstrate certain functions to customers. But first of all it is a matter of providing the right models on the platform, and they come from development.
Gimpel: “Of course, at the beginning we concentrate on the use with the developer, because precise data is important.” The developer is not only the most demanding customer of aSR, it depends on his acceptance whether the founders can expand their customer base, up to the end customer. Of course, their approach could help increase development efficiency, say the founders. The most important thing, however, is that such improved development processes also ensure that products are better developed from the outset, before they are then ultimately implemented in expensive hardware.