Playing video games is a great way to pass the time. If you're good, you could even make a career out of it today by joining a professional e-sports team. Volvo, however, has found a different use for video games and the technology surrounding them. Rather than playing games to kill time or slack off, Volvo engineers are using video games to develop safer vehicles.
Even though Volvo's “ultimate driving simulator” would look perfect in a mancave, the automaker says it is used to improve their vehicle's safety and autonomous driving technology. The setup is comprised of a moving driver's seat, a steering wheel with haptic feedback, and a virtual reality headset. There's also a full-body Teslasuit that provides haptic feedback from a virtual world while monitoring bodily reactions.
As cool as it would be to use Volvo tech to go racing in the virtual world, the automaker is using the hardware and software to simulate real cars on real roads. Engineers can endlessly simulate nearly endless traffic scenarios and situations all in total safety. The simulations will then help engineers gain important insight into the interaction between people and the car for the development of new safety, driver assistance, and autonomous driving features.
“Working together with great companies like Varjo, Unity, and Teslasuit has allowed us to test so many scenarios that look and feel totally real, without having to physically build anything. It lets us test drive actual cars in through traffic scenarios that look and feel real, but can be adjusted at the touch of a button,” says Casper Wickman senior leader of User Experience at Volvo’s Open Innovation Arena.
Developing new safety systems and autonomous driving technology can be dangerous, which is why testing is very crucial before rolling them out in production vehicles. However, physically testing these systems is not only dangerous but also time-consuming and expensive.
With the use of virtual and mixed-reality simulations, Volvo engineers can test new technology as much as they want safely. We wouldn't be surprised if they used the simulator to unwind during their breaks too.