Volvo Cars engineers call it “the ultimate driving simulator”, but it is not just an excuse for them to indulge their inner basement gamer.
Instead, the Swedish company’s ground-breaking mixed-reality simulator is used to make new strides in safety and autonomous driving technology.
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 gain important insights on the interaction between people and the car for development of new safety, driver-assistance and autonomous 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.
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.”