Purdue University Associate Professor Douglas Adams is working with the U.S. Army and Honeywell International Inc. to develop the system.
In the tests, military vehicles are driven over the diagnostic cleat, which is like a rubber-jacketed speed bump equipped with sensors called triaxial accelerometers. The system measures vibrations created by forces that a vehicle's tires apply to the cleat. Damage is detected in the tires, wheel bearings and suspension components by using signal processing software to interpret the sensor data.
"Let's say one of the tires is severely under pressure," Adams said. "The cleat tells you to turn around and fill up that tire because you are about to embark on a 10-hour mission with this vehicle. Or, you are returning the vehicle to the depot and the cleat tells you that the right rear suspension has a problem in the shock absorber or a critical bolt in the front suspension is broken. The maintenance personnel don't have to troubleshoot the vehicle. They know what to fix."
The system also could be used to test civilian vehicles, he said.
Research findings are to be presented April 22 in Detroit during the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress.