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New £10m simulation research to improve car design process

Future cars could be designed in a virtual environment that better replicates real word sights, sounds and even smells thanks to a new research programme.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is to lead a series of academic projects under a £10m government scheme to develop virtual simulation technologies and processes with the aim of helping manufacturers deliver complex new vehicle programmes more quickly.

The project leaders at JLR and Cambridge, Leeds, Loughborough and Warwick universities hope the research will also help save costs and reduce environmental impact in product development by reducing the reliance on physical prototypes.

JLR has already invested heavily in simulation technology such as its ‘cave’ virtual environment, used to view vehicle designs from multiple angles at actual scale.

Speaking at the programme’s launch at the University of Warwick today, JLR engineering director Bob Joyce said: ‘While we already utilise a wide range of sophisticated virtual engineering tools and processes to design, engineer and test our new vehicles, we are keen to enhance the future capability of virtual simulation and tailor them for automotive product development.

‘We want to make advances in the simulated driver and passenger experience, including more realistic imagery, sounds and even smells.

‘These projects will help us analyse increasingly complex cars at whole vehicle, system and component levels, as well as enhancing the high performance computers that industry will use in the future to mine increasing amounts of more complex data.’

Five projects announced today will form the first phase of the programme and cover 80 per cent of the research and include an attempt to replicate a realistic driving and passenger experience in a fully digital environment, and development of visualisation techniques and multi-sensory experience.`

The project titles are:

  • Analysis of the vehicle as a complex system (Loughborough and Leeds);
  • Multi-physics and multi-functional simulation (Loughborough)
  • Driving simulation (Leeds)
  • High performance computing and simulation knowledge mining and abstraction (Cambridge)
  • Visualisation and virtual experience (Warwick)

Also speaking at the launch, business secretary Vince Cable said: ‘This investment will support the Government’s industrial strategy by boosting the UK’s manufacturing capability and helping to keep us globally competitive.’

PSI is funded by JLR (£4m), EPSRC (£4m) and the partner universities (£2m). Joyce said: ‘Jaguar Land Rover believes the UK needs to be globally competitive in industrial innovation.

‘Collaboration between Jaguar Land Rover and academia to develop new automotive applications will give the UK an opportunity to take a lead in virtual simulation technology.”

EPSRC chief executive Prof David Delpy said: ‘This partnership shows how the research community can work hand in hand with industry to push boundaries in science and engineering.

‘EPSRC’s role, as a sponsor of innovative research, has been to work with Jaguar Land Rover to define the longer term research needs of the industry, issue a call for proposals and facilitate robust peer review.’

The Engineer investigates how immersive visualisation software is enabling designers to experience and make changes to creations in real time.

Readers' comments (1)

  • The emphasis on simulation will only lead to more badly designed vehicles. Presently, cars are much more difficult to maintain and repair because the abuse of AutoCad has allowed inexperienced designers who have never hels a wrench in their hands, to produce mediocre designs where there is simply no room to introduce a human hand, much less a handtool. (Albeit, it looked "nice" on the PC monitor!).
    Many years ago, true designers made real, touchable mock designs, then an experienced supervisor came and critiziced the design, and good products (for their time) were the result. Today, one has to almost remove the entire engine-transaxle-suspension from the body just to change some oddly located sparkplug!

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