Important step in the digitisation of the automotive industry: New testing facility for EMC and antenna systems inaugurated
Sindelfingen. Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) is a key prerequisite for the future topics connectivity, autonomous driving, shared, and electric drivetrain. With the new test facility, Mercedes-Benz takes an important step as a pioneer in the digitisation of the automotive industry. The new reverberation chamber makes efficient and comprehensive EMC measurements possible. New measuring methods allow vehicle antennas to be measured quickly and realistically. The complex simulation of the global mobile communication services in the new antenna testing hall makes system development in terms of maximum data protection possible. Daimler invested about 50 million euros in the new building at the Mercedes Benz Technology Centre (MTC) in Sindelfingen.
In the presence of Thomas Strobl, Deputy Minister-President and Minister of the interior, Digitalisation and Migration in Baden-Württemberg, Daimler today inaugurated a new test facility for electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and radio-frequency (RF) antenna systems. The measurements taken there contribute to
- electromagnetic fields of vehicles not interfering with other receiver systems – including those in the own vehicle,
- minimising the exposure of the passengers in the vehicle interior,
- the vehicle functions not being impaired by external (electromagnetic) fields and
- maximising the reception quality and performance of the antennas.
The test facility at the Mercedes-Benz Technology Centre (MTC) is one of the most advanced in the automotive industry. It sets standards for the comprehensive protection of the vehicles with new measuring and testing methods, which were developed together with the Technical University Ilmenau (Thuringia), the TU München and others.
The investment amounts to about 50 million euros. The inauguration ceremony was attended by Thomas Strobl and a host of guests from politics, business and administration, among them Roland Bernhard (District Administrator of the District Council of Böblingen) and Dr. Bernd Vöhringer (Mayor of the City of Sindelfingen).
In his welcoming address, Deputy Minister-President Strobl said: “The Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen plant, with its more than 100-year of history, is one of the vehicle plants richest in tradition in Germany. At this place, you can feel that the future of the automobile and the future of Baden-Württemberg are closely linked. Through digitization, huge transformations are taking place in the economy and society, that are more than just another episode in the history of technological progress. The car is just being reinvented: the auto-automobile. And now, it is the time to develop the right agenda in order to remain the internationally leading automotive location in the future as well. And I am not worried at all. Because, Baden-Württemberg is still a hub for innovation and, not least, the opening of this new building for electromagnetic compatibility and high-frequency technology proves this.”
"We are a pioneer in the digitisation of the automotive industry. The new test facility for electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and antennas is an important step to ensure we remain a pioneer", says Sajjad Khan, Member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars responsible for CASE. "Because all four CASE fields of our corporate strategy – connectivity (Connected), autonomous driving (Autonomous), flexible use (Shared & Services) and electric powertrains (Electric) – require the transmission of data. In physical terms, all these data streams use electromagnetic waves as a means of transport“.
A Mercedes-Benz passenger car can have more than 200 control units; an S-Class vehicle has over five kilometres of wires. On one hand, the electromagnetic compatibility therefore must ensure that the electronics installed in the vehicle do not cause any interference that could disturb other vehicles or devices. On the other, there are a myriad of electromagnetic waves that reach a vehicle from the outside. The cars therefore must be designed in a way that ensures that their electronics along with particularly important functions such as engine control and driving assistance systems are not impaired.
For this reason, a vehicle from Mercedes-Benz undergoes many EMC tests before it gets an approval. The day-to-day operations with such tests in the EMC facility will start at this central location already tomorrow.
We stay outside: new building is protected against interferences
Over 200 employees work in the new EMC facility in part in multiple shifts. Construction started in late November 2016. More than 60 companies were involved in the design and construction of the building.
In addition to the administrative wing, the building houses three halls for EMC tests and one especially large hall that rises three storeys (length/width/height: 27/20/11.5 metres) for radio-frequency (RF) antenna tests. These halls use metal to provide complete shielding against outside interferences.
Another special feature of the antenna testing hall is the flooring: It has the same properties as a dry asphalt or concrete roadway and offers the possibility to be converted to a metal or absorbing floor and thus makes a wide range of realistic test set-ups possible.
The halls are equipped with turntables and chassis dynamometers for the vehicles to be tested in order to investigate signal interferences from different directions in stationary or moving vehicles. Cameras monitor the test set-ups in the test facility during a test. The developers sit in the operator room and are able to control and observe the measurements on the test rigs from there on monitors.
It's all in the mix: EMC testing in the reverberation chamber
A highlight of the new test facility is a unique reverb (short for reverberation chamber). It allows interference immunity measurements to be conducted there in an especially efficient manner and in particular self-driving vehicles to be tested comprehensively for their immunity to electromagnetic interference.
The reverb houses three large mechanical "stirrers". These spiral reflector structures rotate at speeds of ten or 120 revolutions per minute, which constantly distributes the electromagnetic waves in the room. It is possible to demonstrate that this electromagnetic field distribution is locally equivalent to irradiation with an antenna from all directions.
A major efficiency gain, because in the past the vehicle was bombarded sequentially with antennas from different directions and with different polarisations. This is now done in the reverb very quickly as part of a single test step. Daimler designed the stirrer system in-house.
Always receiving: realistic scenarios for antenna testing
Modern vehicles have more than just the classic radio antenna: They are equipped with antennas for radio broadcasts, mobile communications, navigation, WLAN, Bluetooth, rf central locking system. They all need to be developed to achieve an optimal reception quality. Furthermore, the antennas may not interfere with each other.
The new 5G mobile communications standard creates additional requirements. One antenna is no longer enough to physically achieve the future data rates. That is why two or four antennas are usually used simultaneously in order to make the high data throughput possible. In addition to the individual radiation patterns, this requires analysing both the array of the various antennas – the experts refer to it as MIMO: multiple input, multiple output – as well as the receiver in the measurement technology.
Apart from classic antenna measurements, the antenna hall also allows conducting tests of such complex receiver systems as measurements of the data throughput. An important test set-up, because the reception in the moving car depends on many factors, e.g. the number of users in a cell or the location and the density of the transmission towers in a region. Trucks passing by and the buildings as well as the vegetation also can influence the data throughput.
That is why the antenna specialists of Daimler, together with experts of the Technical University Ilmenau, developed a method that for the first time allows simulating such scenarios for a vehicle in a reproducible way, and measuring them. All globally available and future frequency bands and services can be emitted in the hall, which is crucial for mobile communications, navigation and for automated driving.
Thanks to the shielding of the hall, there is no interference with the actual radio, TV and mobile communications transmitters in Sindelfingen and the surrounding areas.
The new test facility for electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and antenna systems is part of extensive expansions and reconstruction measures of the Mercedes-Benz Technology Centre (MTC) in Sindelfingen. Amongst other things, a new technology centre for vehicle safety (TFS), a new powertrain integration centre, the driving simulator, the climatic wind tunnels and the high-tech aeroacoustic wind tunnel came online in recent years. The MTC is home to the headquarters of the company's global Group Research and passenger car development, including design.