Ford uses virtual reality to help build new models

JonathanMay 8, 2014

Ford is building its new models with enhanced clarity through virtual reality. A new system, called computer automated virtual environment (CAVE), is helping Ford developers bring prototypes to life using three-dimensional imaging.

CAVE allows engineers to test virtual vehicles before they come to life, allowing them to anticipate problems and correct issues before they come to fruition. The cost-cutting, groundbreaking technology uses 3-D glasses and motion detectors to project a realistic driving experience. The spectacles allow engineers to take 2-D ideas off paper and use them to mould a computer-simulated world where proposed ideas, features and amenities can be virtually tested.

The so-called ‘3-D CAVE’ has revolutionised the way Ford designs and revises its new makes. Physical prototypes, which cost the company resources, time and effort, have been replaced by virtual models, at least in the early stages of development. Everything from cup-holders, windscreen visibility and rear view mirrors can be tested before models are marked as completed, and a real world prototype is made.

Ford of Europe’s virtual reality supervisor, Michael Wolf, said: “We can now conjure up a car in the digital world, and then actually get in and experience it. 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.”

The 3-D CAVE was used to develop popular models, like the Ford Focus and B-MAX. Using the new technology, engineers were able to realise the advantages of Ford B-MAX Hatchback’s easy access door system, which offers sliding rear doors and hinged front doors. Additionally, the virtual imaging system helped Ford identify the butterfly windscreen wipers system as a way to maximise visibility for drivers.

For the Ford Focus, the new technology was used to maximise space for passengers, enhance door frame design and enhance effectiveness of wipers.

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