#roadtripsweden: The damper tester
On their road trip to Arvidsjaur in March 2019, Sweden, our automotive experts tested their high-tech components under extreme conditions – high-tech dampers from thyssenkrupp Bilstein included. But, who decides how sports, comfort or off-road driving profiles should feel in practice? The answer: Our colleague Matthias Grünig. He told us why the dampers of the future not only look ahead but could even prevent diseases.
Today’s high-tech components are a real blessing for drivers who value comfort but still don’t want to commit themselves to a particular surface. Whether in city traffic, on the motorway or off-road – the adaptive damper control in modern shock absorbers ensures that drivers are able to change the driving behavior at the touch of a button.
Matthias Grünig is one of few who knows what an enormous influence a damper has on the driving experience. Together with manufacturers such as Mercedes or Porsche, the Bilstein expert from the “Drive and Handling” division feels into various surfaces on test tracks and adjusts the suspension until the result fully convinces his customers.
“While partners like Porsche naturally tend to go in a sporty direction, a Mercedes suspension is traditionally more comfortable, even though this has changed somewhat in recent years,” says Matthias. “This basic hydraulic tuning takes place with the aid of so-called tuning dampers. The consumer driver then only has to select the preferred driving mode at the push of a button – the software takes care of the rest”.
As much as this job sounds like it: The 55-year-old doesn’t see himself as a classic test driver. “My department does road tests – not test drives in the true sense of the word. What’s vital is that the car swings in parallel. The car should practically float,” the 55-year-old sums up his mission. “That’s why in fact, dampers don’t absorb shocks but rather vibrations.”
BILSTEIN dampers: Flexibly adjusted to every driving preference
Above all, Matthias sees the decisive advantage of BILSTEIN dampers for the OEM market in their flexibility. “With our semi-active damper solutions, customers can simultaneously cover an entire range of possible suspension settings, ranging from soft to hard. In the end, this also gives the private driver the freedom to be on the road both comfortable and sporty, with the same car.”
Dampers that predict the road ahead
For the expert, however, the Holy Grail of dampers is an active adjustment system with which tomorrow’s dampers act intelligently and with foresight. “We are currently working on conscious control of the hydraulics. This means that the system uses a camera system to identify a bump in the road ahead – even before the sensor in the vehicle itself detects the unevenness. In this way, the damper is able to “prepare” itself for the bump in advance, minimize vibrations and in turn, decisively increase driving comfort.”
Could future dampers bring travel sickness to an end?
A phenomenon that Matthias’ team also approaches is travel sickness or commonly known as “motion sickness”. For some drivers and passengers, it transforms car journeys into a completely unpleasant experience, involving headaches, dizziness or nausea. “In a pilot project, we are currently developing initial ideas on how to minimize the symptoms of travel sickness using new damper solutions. A huge field for which we still have a lot of theoretical preparatory work and research to do. Nevertheless, achieving this goal is a great vision for the future for all of us here, also with regards to the future of autonomous driving”.
Road trip to Sweden: experiencing the prototypes of the past in a long-term test
Matthias has now been with thyssenkrupp Bilstein for around 20 years. The enthusiasm for his job has not changed since the beginning. “It’s a great feeling to be able to drive prototypes that the general public has never seen or even driven before – instead of just sitting in the office. That’s why my heart beats, especially because I meet many interesting colleagues, customers and engineers.”
On the road trip to Sweden, Matthias can live out exactly these advantages to the maximum. “We have vehicles from a wide variety of manufacturers with us that have one thing in common: Our components are inside all of them. It’s incredibly exciting to see how these components perform during such a long and demanding journey. After all, I worked on many of them myself during their development. Being able to see what happened to the prototypes from back then now – that’s simply great,” he explained with a smile.
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