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Buick Tackles The World's Toughest [Virtual] Roads

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On: Fri, Oct 15, 2010 at 4:00PM | By: Chris Weiss

Buick Tackles The World's Toughest [Virtual] Roads

There seems to be a lot of attention lately to the world's scariest, most challenging roads—well deserved attention, if I might add; these roads are fascinating. The History Channel recently pulled its grizzled, tried-and-true ice road truckers (plus one pretty cute chick) off the ice to tackle some of these roads in a new series called IRT Deadliest Roads. The truckers navigate some of the most dangerous, unforgiving roads in the Indian Himalayas. It's terrifying but quite compelling television.

Well, Buick has announced that it's getting in on the deadly road craze. It has created a 3D simulator that allows it to recreate some of the world's roughest, most difficult roads for vehicle testing. So when you buy a Buick in the future, you'll know that it can not only stand up to your local dirt road, but can take on some of the world's worst roadways.

Buick's system uses a road scanner to make a micro-detailed virtual 3D replica of a given road, providing a very realistic, detailed computer-simulated version of any road. Testers then use an equally-detailed virtual version of Buick vehicles to simulate how the car would handle on the road. According to Buick, the road scanner uses lasers and cameras to recreate the road surface down to 1mm of fidelity.

Buick didn't mention any roads in the Himalayas, nor the notorious Yungas Road in Bolivia, but the company is looking for rough roads, not necessarily the most dangerous. The one example that Buick gives is a Mexican road that winds its way up to the Cerro del Cubilete shrine. Buick describes the road as "a twisting, rocky path that winds its way up toward one of the most important religious shrines in Mexico," explaing that "Each day, pilgrims from throughout Mexico are jostled and bumped as they traverse the stone road of Cubilete. "

One of the engineers behind the project, MineTasci, explained the road's significance: "Customers who drive on that road complain about steering rack noise. That's why we wanted to recreate this road so that we can test and ensure that our vehicles are up to the challenge of driving on roads like this one."

The virtual testing happens early on in development, well before an actual prototype model has been built, allowing Buick to iron out any problems before they make it into production. The testing helps them to build more stable, responsive, and quiet cars.

After reading about Buick's system, I have just one more question: when will I be able to buy one of these for home?


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