The big test rig

At PG Trionic, we try to maintain some commonality in our products, but more and more now we’re developing rather special controls for somewhat unique vehicles (like the PLE self-drive or the CMEC sigma level) – our hardware modules are flexible (the “brain” of most machines for example is our GP400, with nearly 50 outputs and 30 inputs, and built-in tilt measurement), but there’s often LOADS of software customisation which keeps me entertained!
It’s quite important too that I am able to test the software I write – in years past we might have a loaned vehicle to test on, but more often now we’re developing before any vehicle has been built, and we have to make our own simulation rig. We build rigs on mobile carts which can be wheeled in and out of my office according to what project I’m working on – only so much space – but making a new rig takes time which we often don’t have, and the rigs can get complex and bulky, like this:

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So now, a new concept – build a “big rig” with enough switches, joysticks and lamps to simulate anything the customer might need!


“Template” files have been developed on a computer, which provide a location label for every switch and lamp – when a new project begins, these can be quickly edited, printed, and affixed temporarily to the big rig, to indicate the functions for the particular customer/vehicle. Much quicker than building a complete new rig!

This rig has a GP400 in the center, connected to potentiometers for varying voltage (the 9 knobs across the middle), with a bank of switch inputs below left and output indicator lamps below right. Inside, a mess of wires connects the GP400 to all those switches & lamps, and is also where I connect my computer to develop & test software.

Above, a removable section has a P440 module, connected to four control joysticks, and less but still many knobs, switches and lamps. The P440 module is designed for the platform control box of a vehicle – hence the joysticks.

At the bottom, a couple more joysticks and lamps, and loads more switches, provide inputs/outputs for a Matrix module (a low cost simple version of the P440), as well as CANbus joysticks (which have built-in electronics needing no separate module).

Connections down the side (not shown) allow any required particular combinations of modules to be quickly linked together – the whole “big rig” concept is to enable me to test more quickly (today, I often either finish the software untested while waiting, or have to delay the project); real world use of this “big rig” awaits final requirement details from the customer, but soon this’ll be in my office …