Acquiring Test Data from a Formula Student Race Car Using NI LabVIEW and CompactRIO

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"LabVIEW gave us a more straightforward, intuitive environment for programming the application compared to a text-based language. LabVIEW was a great tool for quickly programming the data acquisition system according to our needs, and, in turn, accelerated development of the car."

- Sian Owen, University of Leeds

The Challenge:
Gathering data from a Formula Student car to monitor diagnostics and aid driver training.

The Solution:
Using NI CompactRIO hardware with NI LabVIEW system design software to improve vehicle analysis by acquiring data from many sensors throughout the car for analysis during test runs.

Author(s):
Sian Owen - University of Leeds

Introduction

Formula Student at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers is a testing ground for the next generation of engineers that challenges university students from around the world to design and build a single-seat race car that is put to the test at the famous Silverstone Circuit. Every year, university teams from the UK, mainland Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Australasia compete during the four-day event.

The University of Leeds encourages final-year mechanical engineering and automotive engineering students to participate in Formula Student as part of their degrees. As a team of 16 mechanical and automotive engineering students, we took on the challenge to develop our own Formula Student car.

System Setup

During development, we needed to test the car to ensure its safety and functionality. To perform these tests, we designed and implemented a data acquisition system using CompactRIO to monitor temperatures, pressures, and battery conditions and to log and analyze the diagnostics. Among parameters such as temperature and pressure at various parts of the engine, we monitored wheel speed using optical sensors to analyze acceleration, steering, and braking. In addition, we used the system to assist in driver training by logging steering angles and pedal positions.

Conclusion

Using CompactRIO rather than a turnkey data-logging solution gave us complete control of our data acquisition system and provided a versatile controller for data logging. We had the freedom to engineer the measurement system ourselves, gaining a good understanding of the hardware and software technology involved.

LabVIEW gave us a straightforward, intuitive environment for programming the application, compared to a text-based language. LabVIEW was a great tool for quickly programming the data acquisition system according to our needs, and, in turn, accelerated development of the car. In the future, we would like to interface CompactRIO with the engine control unit, potentially monitoring throttle and crank positions to better understand engine performance.

Author Information:
Sian Owen
University of Leeds
University of Leeds
Leeds
United Kingdom

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