Ford is using virtual vehicles to design real-world vehicles they plan to bring to market.
Ford has a room it calls the 3D Cave where it designs the cars of tomorrow. Actually, it has two of these rooms, one in Europe and one in the United States.
Inside this special room is a dummy car interior. Climb behind the wheel, put on the 3D glasses (complete with motion detectors), and you’re suddenly immersed in a realistic virtual world. This is the ultimate simulator experience!
Unfortunately, Ford isn’t using this simulator for fun, but for the serious business of car design. The 3D Cave has changed the way cars are designed and refined at Ford. Rather than building multiple real-world vehicle prototypes – a time-consuming and costly process – Ford uses the 3D Cave to test and refine thousands of details of new car designs from the size and position of a cup-holder to rear-window visibility.
“We can now conjure up a car in the digital world, and then actually get in and experience it,” said Michael Wolf, virtual reality supervisor, Ford of Europe. “We still rely on the know-how and imagination of our prototype engineers to bring designs accurately to life, but now they have at their disposal a much more sophisticated tool to do so.”
Engineers interact with the virtual vehicle by, for example, determining the reach to rear view mirrors or to place bottles into door pockets. The simulator also features a realistic external environment with pedestrians and cyclists to help engineers assess visibility from inside their virtual vehicle.
“The Cave makes it so much quicker and easier to analyze designs,” said Wolf. “For example, to manufacture three different front pillar design examples and fit them to a prototype vehicle could take 10 days. The same project could be completed in just one or two days using our virtual reality simulator – and also saves physical resources.”