Will Virtual Tow Testing Ever Replace Real-World Road Testing?

Ford-Dyno-Sled
2017 Ford Super Duty prototype

Ford is utilizing virtual tow testing in preparation for the release of the new 2017 Super Duty, along with actual testing in the real-world. While all manufactures conduct a barrage of tests to ensure their trucks are ready for whatever their customers will put them through, including elevation, towing, hauling, and braking tests, virtual tests have become a method truck makers use to provide preliminary data… without having to travel to proving grounds across the nation. Ford’s use of the dynamometer sled (pictured here) can reportedly provide data that mere mortal roads cannot. For example, the dyno sled can simulate a 30% grade while it’s being towed on a flat road. The harshest roads in the country, including TFL’s own Ike Gauntlet, rarely exceed a 7% grade.

The following comment came from a confidential source at Ram:

“Although we simulate a lot of tests, most also require an actual run to confirm data… We use proving grounds all over the nation to get a grasp of the different environments and a huge fleet of trailers set with different weights and wind resistance to help the development of acceleration, handling and braking, but it’s very difficult to create an equal environment when testing to extremes.”

A current limitation of the dyno sled Ford uses is its inability to simulate a descent in order to test a truck’s downhill control, although a device capable of simulating such a phenomenon would not be difficult to engineer. It’s not hard to imagine a world in which virtual testing becomes sophisticated enough (and cheap enough) that it would replace real-world testing as the biggest source of data for manufacturers.

Ford-Dyno-Sled

So the question is: Is virtual testing as good as real-world testing? Will data collected from dynamometer sleds and other virtual methods become the future of truck testing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Brian is an engineer by trade but his true passion is anything automotive. He wakes up every morning to search the web for the latest industry news. He enjoys taking his Tacoma 4×4 off-road in the mountains of Colorado where he spends his free time hiking, biking, and snowboarding with his wife and dogs near their Rocky Mountain home.