Volvo has been the leader in car safety since they invented the three-point seat belt in 1959. They are continuing to respond to the globally estimated 1.3 million car collision deaths a year by evolving with the technology of the day. The Swedish automakers have created a cutting-edge driving simulator that uses VR technology that enables engineers to test car safety features and driving reaction in real-time while remaining completely safe. Who knew that this groundbreaking testing feature would come from what could only be described as state-of-the-art video gaming technology.
“The Ultimate Driving Simulator”
By using mixed reality technology, Volvo is taking VR beyond the realm of video games and into a more profound space. The setup consists of a VR headset, a moving driving seat, as well as a steering wheel and a full body suit that both have haptic feedback. This is only possible because Volvo is collaborating with tech companies that provide the technology necessary to test safety features and human reaction to it.
The real-time 3D graphics are provided by the company Unity while the VR technology is from the Finnish mixed reality experts Varjo. Tesla is providing the full-body haptic suit. With all of these technologies working in tandem, the combination between software and hardware allow Volvo engineers to limitlessly simulate traffic situations on a test road with a real car in safety. According to the road traffic accidents solicitors McGinley & Co., this way, they can get insight into the interaction between the driver and the car to discover new driver assistance, automation, and safety features.
Testing Car Safety
The beauty of this technology is that we don’t yet know the discoveries it will lead to. With new ability to test human reaction to the vehicle as well as new car features, testing can expose engineers to new imaginative security features, new automation interfaces, and future vehicle models. Not only can Volvo use the technology to test cars remotely on real test tracks, the engineers and drive testers can fully customize every facet of the driving experience and traffic situations. This creates a scenario in which the possibilities for improvements are nearly limitless.
Announcing the Simulator
Since this technology will be used by others, announcing the simulator was a big deal for the automobile industry. Volvo demonstrated the simulator in a live stream event that was hosted by a team of innovation experts. Volvo became the first car manufacturer to drive a real car with a headset last year, now they have announced their collaborations with Unity and Tesla.
The senior lead of User Experience at Volvo, Casper Wickman said that the company can use this simulation to study authentic human reactions to real driving environments in complete safety. Not only do you not need to create physical prototypes and complex driving scenarios, the company can test their models and adjust the features with a touch of a button. Testing is so crucial, but it can be dangerous, expensive, and time-consuming. This new technology removes that completely.
The Future of Transportation
The “ultimate driving simulator” is just the beginning of the transportation safety revolution. As the technology advances, the possibility of completely autonomous roads will become a reality. This could not only prevent crashes, it could also decrease the number of deaths. Car safety is just the tip of the iceberg. One day humans will be taken out of the equation and the roads will be entirely autonomous.
Transportation is just one of the areas that will be improved by technology. Our lives are changing all the time because the tech keeps advancing. It will make our lives safer and healthier. It will make things easier. Of course there will be problems and concerns of technology. It is pivotal to pay attention to technology and how it is changing us. The new driving simulation provides a window into human interaction with technology in a way that will be used not just for car technology but in other facets of life.
Only time will tell how this technology is used to better our lives, but one thing is for sure. There are entirely too many deaths on our roads to do nothing. It is important to use technology to make people safer and cars more secure. Volvo is just getting started.
Ryan Beitler is a journalist, writer, and blogger who has written for Paste Magazine, The Slovenia Times, Deadline News, New Noise Magazine, and many more.