How video gaming is making vehicles safer

By Pritesh Ruthun Time of article published Nov 23, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - Video gaming has taken the globe by storm since its conception in the 1950s, today standing proud as a massively profitable niche within the entertainment industry. Statista reports that there are currently around 2.7 billion gamers across the globe.

What very few of those gamers probably realise though is that this fun activity is having a big impact on road safety.

Volvo Cars last week showed us how it has harnessed unconventional, cutting-edge video gaming technology employed by the gaming industry's leading developers and coders and – instead of playing with it – the company is using this tech to create safe cars.

“We are inspired by the gaming community. They are always pushing the boundaries. And they have already created virtual ‘props’ such as trees, for instance. This meant that we didn’t have to reinvent these things,” explained Timmy Ghiurau, Innovation Leader and virtual experiences expert at Volvo Cars.

He was speaking during a special media event at Volvo’s Open Innovation Arena in Gothenburg, Sweden, that was live-streamed to a group of select media around the world.

GAMING IN REAL LIFE

Video gaming also opens many possibilities when it comes to testing and development. “Some scenarios are too dangerous to test in real life; others are too rare,” said Ghiurau.

Enter Unity 3D modelling, which Volvo is now employing in its research and development processes. While it’s better known for being a game development platform, Volvo is now employing this technology to create scenarios that all happen in real-time.

There are two other pieces of tech that are playing an equally important role in helping to develop safer cars, namely the Varjo XR-1 mixed reality headset and Teslasuit’s full-body haptic suit.

The headset – so sophisticated that it was recently used by Boeing to conduct first-ever astronaut training in virtual reality (VR) – enables the user to “create” a car. “You can actually climb into the car by walking through the side of the car or through the windscreen – because it is VR, of course,” explains Ghiurau. The location of the car can be changed at the press of a button.

The third piece of the tech puzzle – the haptic suit – allows the wearer to physically feel how a real car would react in simulated scenarios. “Haptics is all about the field of touch. When we combine the use of the suit with tracking of the eyes, we know how the person is feeling. Safety is not only about the car. We are a human-centric company – so we really care about how people feel,” Ghiurau pointed out.

These pieces of tech are constantly used by the engineers and safety experts – both on the driving simulator and also on the test track – to study human interaction with the car in different traffic situations. This technology enables researchers to create tools, simulate scenarios and prepare the ground for the introduction of autonomous driving.

SELF DRIVE CAR BY 2022

Volvo Cars’ next-generation SPA 2 modular vehicle architecture will be available as hardware-ready for autonomous drive from production start in 2022. In fact, the live stream contained demonstrations of autonomous driving in action on the simulator and on the test track. The engineers even created a blue avatar, who was seated next to the driver, while the Volvo was driving itself.

And it was all thanks to the use of gaming technology.

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