Volvo's Ultimate driving simulator for developing safer cars
A setup with a moving driver’s seat, a steering wheel with haptic feedback and a crystal-clear virtual-reality headset would make any serious gamer jealous, but Volvo Cars’ simulator takes this concept to the next level, making it hard to tell reality from simulation. Which is exactly the point.
Using cutting-edge technology from the leading real-time 3D development platform Unity and Finnish virtual and mixed-reality experts Varjo, the simulator involves driving a real car on real roads. It combines life-like, high-definition 3D graphics, an augmented-reality headset and a full-body Teslasuit that provides haptic feedback from a virtual world while also monitoring bodily reactions.
This combination of software and hardware allows Volvo Cars engineers to endlessly simulate traffic scenarios on a real test track road while using a real car, all in total safety. Engineers can gain important insights on the interaction between people and the car for development of new safety, driver-assistance and autonomous driving features.
Testers can be exposed to imagined active safety and driver-assistance features, upcoming autonomous drive user interfaces, future car models and many other scenarios. It can be used on real test track roads or in the test lab, and every scenario is fully customisable. The possibilities are literally endless.
Volvo Cars’ “ultimate simulator” was demonstrated yesterday in an event livestreamed from Volvo’s Open Innovation Arena and hosted by a team of its innovation experts. You can watch the event on demand here.
Last year, together with Varjo, Volvo Cars became the first car maker to make it possible to drive a real car while wearing a mixed-reality headset. Now, that collaboration has been expanded to include Unity and full-body haptic suit maker Teslasuit.
According to Casper Wickman, Senior Leader of User Experience at Volvo’s Open Innovation Arena, and one of the hosts of the livestream, this enables Volvo Cars to study authentic human reactions in a safe environment and at a fraction of the cost of a real test.
“Working together with great companies such as Varjo, Unity and Teslasuit has allowed us to test so many scenarios that look and feel totally real, without having to physically build anything,” said Casper Wickman. “It lets us test drive actual cars in traffic scenarios that look and feel real but can be adjusted at the touch of a button.”
When developing safety systems for cars, such as collision-avoiding technologies, testing is crucial. But testing these systems in reality can be dangerous, time-consuming and expensive. Virtual and mixed-reality simulations, however, allow for perfectly safe testing in authentic environments, without having to build any physical prototypes or set up complex scenarios.
“By using this cutting-edge technology, we are exploring and leading the development for creating safe cars in the future. It’s great to play a part in that,” said Casper Wickman.