TerrainSim: Terrain Characterization, Modeling, Analysis, and Synthesis Software

Principal Investigator: John B. Ferris, Virginia Tech, jbferris(at)vt.edu
Student: Philip Chin, Rui Ma, Virginia Tech
Government: Alexander A. Reid, U.S. Army TARDEC
Industry: Tana Tjhung, Chrysler

This project supported U.S. Army RDECOM-TARDEC's efforts to develop mathematical models that appropriately characterize terrain topology for different applications. These models improve the simulation capability for ground vehicle dynamics, durability, reliability and mobility assurance. The goals of this work are to establish an SAE standard for terrain roughness characterization to enable testing specification creation, and to standardize techniques for terrain topology Modeling & Simulation in the form of enhancements to our TerrainSim software.

Our approach investigates the modeling of terrain surfaces (3D) as well as profiles (2D). Statistical tests for properties such as homogeneity, Guassianity, and linearity are developed to determine the appropriateness of different mathematical models, applied to different terrain types, at different resolutions. The approach for this ongoing project was developed through the efforts of the SAE Ground Vehicle Reliability Committee Task Force on Terrain Modeling. One of several means by which the tools and methodologies resulting from this work are transitioned to government and industry practitioners is through this SAE Task Force.


  • Ma, R., Chemistruck, H. M., Ferris, J.B., 2012. “State-of-the-art of Terrain Characterization Models.” International Journal of Vehicle Design (IJVD), Vol. 61, No. 1/2/3/4, 2013. doi:10.1504/IJVD.2013.050850
  • Smith, H. and Ferris, J. B., Gorsich, D., 2012, “Using a Galerkin Approach to Define Terrain Surfaces,” J. Dyn. Sys., Meas., Control 134, 021017 (2012), doi:10.1115/1.4005271
  • Chemistruck, H. M., Binns, R., Ferris, J.B., 2011, “Correcting INS Drift in Terrain Surface Measurements” Journal of Dynamic Systems Measurement and Control. J. Dyn. Sys., Meas., Control 133, 021009. doi:10.1115/1.4003098.
  • Smith, H. and Ferris, J. B., 2010, “Calibration Design and Accuracy Verification of High Fidelity Terrain Measurement Systems,” Journal of Testing and Evaluation, Vol. 38, No. 4, pp. 431-438. doi:10.1520/JTE102513
  • Smith, H., Ferris, J.B., 2010, “Techniques for Averting and Correcting Inertial Errors in High-Fidelity Terrain Topology Measurements.” J. Terramechanics, Vol. 47, No. 4, pp. 219-225. doi:10.1016/j.jterra.2010.04.002
  • Detweiler, Z. R., and Ferris, J. B., 2010, “Interpolation Methods for High-Fidelity Three Dimensional Terrain Surfaces,” J. Terramechanics, Vol. 47, No. 4, pp. 209-217. doi:10.1016/j.jterra.2010.01.002