The Life Of A Test Driver

What's it like to be a test driver for a car manufacturer?

test driver
New cars undergo extensive testing before they go on sale

Have you ever been curious about the job of an automotive test driver?  Test drivers work with engineers during the development of a new car to ensure that the car is safe for customers. For car manufacturers this is an important part of bringing a new model to market. Guillaume is a test driver and has worked with a number of manufacturers. Here he gives us insight into his life as a test driver.

What is your role?
My job title is test driver and my role is part of a car’s development.

What’s the purpose of your job?
I make sure the car is safe for customers. The first part of my job is to accelerate aging on the chassis and other mechanical components of the vehicle. We drive outdoors and indoors on several tracks. We make sure​ the handling is still correct, noise levels are acceptable, and note where improvements are needed. The second part is endurance tests for the engine and gearbox​ on a high speed ring, and also electric vehicle testing ​on other tracks. There are sensors everywhere on the cars during testing, but having a human behind the wheel to experience the car and make notes is still very important.

I also work for a French brand to prepare cars for international reveal events and test drives for journalists at launches. The car has to be perfect so I make sure everything is fine before the cars are tested by the journalists. Because the cars are the very first ones that have been built, there are usually some problems to solve and we are there to help. I test drive them, make sure the stability control and electronic aids are working, and do an inside and outside check of the cars. Sometimes parts may have to be changed or fixed. It’s a very interesting​ job because you have to go where the car is made, which could be Brazil, India, Spain, Korea, or China.

Life of a test driver
Cars are tested on public roads and on purpose-built tracks
How did you get this job?

Luck. I was looking for jobs and I found this one for a high speed driver online on a French website. After a dozen phone calls proving my passion, they called me back for the job. They checked my driving skills and said yes! I studied science and materials engineering in college. But the job doesn’t need qualifications: just driving skills and a good state of mind for the job. And I was lucky to find it. Driving at 250km per hour without any problems is great…

What sort of facility is used to test the cars?

Private tracks in a test centre in the South of France and also on public roads. The test centre is huge with tracks to test four wheel drive vehicles, a few tracks for testing the chassis and cornering, and two oval tracks, including one with banks for high speed driving (endurance testing for engine and gearbox).

What sort of things are you looking for while testing the vehicle?

It’s a very tricky question to answer. Everything. You need to have good ears and feeling for the driving, checking for noises, wrong parts, etc. It’s subjective testing and objective. We check for what is good and what needs improvement.

Do right hand drive and left hand drive cars need separate testing?

Of course, some parts are completely different. You must test the cars separately because things like the exhaust system, brake system, and steering are different. Some tests are done on public roads in Ireland.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work?

I’m proud each time I see a German or French car on the road that I worked on during the development phase. I am very passionate about my job and I put lot of heart in my work. Not the case for everyone who does this but I am very proud of my job. I have 100% synthetic oil in my veins (!) and being paid each month for burning tyres and fuel was kind of a dream when I was younger.

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