I’m sure you have been in a vehicle at some point in your life where your driving down a road when you hear and feel a large thump because you drove over a pothole. Either you overlooked the pothole and it took you by surprise or you could not avoid it due to a variety of circumstances. For me, when something like this happens I can’t help but wonder if everything is okay and how many times something like that can happen before parts of the vehicle fail.
Now let’s think about this from the other end of the spectrum. You are driving down the interstate minding your own business and suddenly…nothing happens. It’s a nice smooth road with no imperfections. Now, this is a widely different condition than driving your vehicle through a large pothole like was mentioned in the prior exam. So, you are probably thinking to yourself, “Craig what do these two scenarios have in common?”. Well, they are both representative of the various types of road that people drive over on a daily basis in the United States.
My research is focused on identifying methods of predicting the damage a vehicle experiences on a day-to-day basis while traversing random sets of roads from all across the United States. If trying to model the variation in roads across the country is not difficult enough my goal is also to model damage in such a way that it is universal to all types of vehicles. This meaning that we can use the damage accumulated by one vehicle to predict the damage accumulated by another vehicle and the damage associated with a road surface and be measured independent of the vehicle that traverses it.
The reason all of this is important is because we want to improve vehicle designs by reducing weight of parts while still maintaining robustness of them. If we are able to better predict the level of damage experienced by parts we can be better design them early on in the design cycle when major changes can be made.