It’s not unusual for automotive designers to test virtual models of cars on virtual models of bumpy roads. The model of the car, of course, represents an actual proposed vehicle. As for the road, however... where does that model come from? In the case of new technology used by Buick, it’s a millimeter-precise recreation of an existing, physical road.

A team of Buick engineers created a road scanning device, that uses video cameras and lasers to create a high-fidelity 3D model of rough road surfaces. That scanner was towed along a road at the company’s proving grounds, which is itself a replica of the rocky road to Mexico's Cerro del Cubilete shrine.

“Customers who drive on that road complain about steering rack noise,” said team member Mine Tasci. “That's why we wanted to recreate this road.”

Road data from the scanner was downloaded into a computer system, which created a 3D graphical model of the rough surface. When paired up with a model of a Buick vehicle currently in development, engineers could virtually drive the car up and down that road, observing how its steering and suspension systems handled the abuse.

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