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Who are THOSE drivers, and can I be one?
bi22le - 12/10/17 at 07:16 PM

I regularly see the zebra black and white stripped camo I am a nothing test cars on the road. I commute over the dartford crossing so it must be a rat run or test route for Ford possibly.

I also have over 10 years in R+D (medical devices) but could imagine my next career move into either automotive or aerospace, Brexit depending.

So, who are the people test driving cars? Are they general development engineers tasked with slapping a load of miles on to a mule chassis to test a new body, young super talented engineering grads that are cherry picked or a head of taking responsibility of a precious and secretive prototype?

Anyone work in mainstream automotive development?

I can imagine myself targeting Dunton Technical Centre (Ford R+D) as my next work place. I wonder if my diverse and highly regulated design skills could transfer over.

Just a thought I was having as I commuted to work on the bike this morning.

perksy - 12/10/17 at 07:48 PM

Met a couple of test drivers on one of my trips to Japan with Honda and iirc they were qualified engineers with motorsport experience
I got the feeling that it was difficult to get into, but once you were in 'you were in'

Believe some have to do running reports whilst driving on track and you can end up car sick as its not that easy...

It was strange seeing the cars covered in camouflage covers with lumps of foam underneath so that the outer shape of the car/s was distorted
Every now and again they would come back into the unit and the foam under the cover would be re-arranged before they went out again..
It was all a bit 'cloak and daggers' and you are sworn to secrecy

Also managed to get an invite to a F1 and Indy car test a Suzuka with Sattoru Nakajima and that was bloody ace

coyoteboy - 12/10/17 at 10:53 PM

I think there's two distinct types. 1) Mule cars which just get hundreds of thousands of miles in "normal use". These are usually pool cars that staff can book out. 2) Specific test/development cars, for which you need to be engineering qualified, with motorsport experience, or built up from the ground knowledge.

phelpsa - 13/10/17 at 05:53 AM

The guys o know that are true development drivers have all had reasonably successful racing careers beforehand. Even then it isn't particularly glamorous!

nick205 - 13/10/17 at 08:41 AM

I used to regularly drive up and down the M40 past ProDrive (who I believe worked with Subaru on their WRC cars). Lots of "test" vehicles pasing that way too. Drivers appeared to generally be men in the older (40-60) age group. The cars weren't being hammered, just appeared to be clocking up miles.

Wondered myself how they come about these jobs and more-so what they have to do after driving...file reports?

WallerZero - 13/10/17 at 11:11 AM

They are more than likely NVH road tests/real world driving data collection. High mileage tests are usually done on a rig that will simulate driving conditions and can be run 24/7 without the need to stop for fuel, fluids, drivers etc etc with performance tests done at a track or specialist facility aka MIRA.

On the public road they are either heading to/from a test facility or collecting road load data. I know at some manufacturers you need a higher driving permit for driving prototype vehicles in case anything does break or fall off. Best one I heard was electric vehicles axles locking up or car going completely dead. Advanced drivers can deal with that calmly and safely, basic drivers license holders may panic/lack ability to recognise and deal with this. These cars are worth a few million quid to be fair, last thing they want is for them to be totalled before the testing is complete!

bi22le - 13/10/17 at 11:50 AM

Interesting response, so I am not far off.

I don't consider myself a chassis engineer by any means. I only just about know what my Striker is doing!

However, I could have a very good shot at designing the majority of the components of a car. I currently deal in sheet metal, injection moulded engineering plastics, aluminium extrusions and reasonably complex.

james h - 14/10/17 at 11:52 AM

I've been working for JLR since leaving uni 5 months ago as a suspension systems engineer.

As someone else has mentioned, most camo'd cars are collecting RLD (Road Load Data), assessing NVH or going from one facility to another.

There are designated test routes where cars will have to deal with varying road surfaces, representing those encountered by a wide range of customers. They will usually be expected to remain at as constant speed as possible (i.e. using cruise control) so I'm led to believe from friends and colleagues that the novelty wears off rather quickly.

Limit handling is performed on test tracks and other extreme suspension testing will be done on rigs in a test facility.