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 driving seat, a steering wheel with haptic feedback and a crystal-clear virtual reality headset would make any serious gamer jealous.
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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 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 customizable.
When developing safety systems for cars, like 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.