19 November 2020

Volvo Cars showcases virtual tech for making safer cars

I sat in on one of Volvo Cars's Studio Talks yesterday which turned out to be one of the most slick and well-managed of recent 'remote' launch and automotive information events, writes Brian Byrne.

It was based around how the Swedish carmaker is using technology developed for gaming to provide state of the art simulated driving and allied events such as sudden braking and automated motoring. I have been to many such events 'live' over the years, but it was really pleasant — and arguably no less informative — sitting at it from the comfort of my own home and winter fire.

The 'ultimate simulator' live stream centred around technology that included a mixed reality headset from specialist Varjo that allows a seamless mix of virtual and real world 3D imagery.

A full-body 'haptic suit' from Teslasuit allows testers to physically feel small reproductions of the forces one would experience in a crash, while experiencing no actual risk. The suit also enables Volvo’s engineers to test reactions by studying how muscles, stress levels, and heart rate react under stress.

Virtual environments and objects can be created using simulation engines from Unity, one of the world's biggest developers of gaming technology.

How Volvo's own engineers are combining such technologies in their efforts to build safer cars — and safer drivers — filled a fascinating 45 minutes. That I didn't need to ask any questions at the end is an indication of how well the remote demonstrations worked.

You can watch it yourself here. Settle down with a coffee first.