How Volvo uses latest gaming technology to develop safe cars

Volvo Cars’ mixed-reality simulator uses latest gaming technology to discover new insights in safety and autonomous driving technology.

The mixed-reality driving simulator’s setup includes a moving driving seat, a steering wheel with haptic feedback and a crystal-clear virtual reality headset, something that a gaming enthusiast would be excited about. The simulator makes it hard to differentiate between reality and simulation.

The simulator involves driving a real car on real roads, combining life-like, high definition 3D graphics, an augmented reality headset, and a full-body Teslasuit that provides feedback from a virtual world and monitors bodily reactions.

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This technology helps Volvo engineers to simulate traffic scenarios on a real test track road while using a real car but being totally safe. The analysis and insights on the interaction between people and the car is crucial for development of new safety, driver assistance and autonomous driving features.

Volvo's mixed-reality simulator used to develop car safety functions
Volvo’s mixed-reality simulator used to develop car safety functions

The engineers using the simulators could be exposed to imaginary active safety and driver assistance features, upcoming autonomous drive user interfaces, future car models and various other scenarios that are fully customizable. This enables Volvo Cars to study authentic human reactions in a safe environment and at a fraction of the cost of a real test, says Casper Wickman, senior leader of User Experience at Volvo’s Open Innovation Arena.

(Also read | How this team makes Volvo cars one of the safest in the world)

Last year, Volvo, together with Varjo, became the first car maker to make it possible to drive a real car while wearing a mixed reality headset. Now the company has expanded that collaboration to include real-time 3D development platform Unity and full-body haptic suit maker Teslasuit.

Carmakers keep working on developing safety systems for cars, like collision-avoiding technologies, for which testing is important. However, testing these systems in reality could be dangerous, time-consuming and expensive. Hence, virtual and mixed reality simulations make for safe testing environments.

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