Ford Motor Company and DERA announce joint venture

Ford Motor Company and the UK Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) have announced an agreement to form a joint venture aimed at accelerating the vehicle design process and improving quality.

The joint venture – to be called ‘Holographic Imaging’ – is a research and development company that has been formed to create a three-dimensional, interactive imaging workstation prototype.

Three-dimensional volumetric imaging involves the creation of true 3-D images from holograms generated using computer-based data.

The long-term goal is an interactive hologram, where a designer can alter the hologram display using special gloves, gestures or voice commands and the design is updated on the computer almost immediately, essentially providing ‘real time’ interaction. The technology, under development by DERA, will be used by Ford to create full-scale virtual digital models of prototype vehicles.

The new technology is said to have the potential to save Ford millions of dollars in design and development costs for new vehicle platforms, while also bringing new products to consumers faster.

‘The new company’s focus is to develop a 3D design tool which can be used to accelerate and simplify Ford’s product development and design processes,’ said Neil Ressler, vice president, Research and Vehicle Technology and chief technical officer, Ford Motor Company.

The technology may have important military applications, too, for example in command and control, exercise planning, product design and simulators. The UK Ministry of Defence will retain use of the technology for British military purposes.

‘DERA’s 3D imaging technology leads the world in futuristic imaging techniques and promises major changes in design processes and other similar applications,’ said David Steeds, director, Corporate Development, DERA. ‘A substantial amount of Intellectual Property has been developed since we started working closely together and the JV will allow DERA and Ford to develop this valuable IP to its full potential.’

‘Imagine being able to project a three-dimensional instrument panel in full-scale and view it from behind the wheel or the passenger seat and obtain customer feedback months earlier than we can get today. This will be possible with this technology,’ said J Mays, vice president, Design, Ford Motor Company.

Both Ford and DERA will retain equal stakes in the new company, while they continue to explore joint commercialisation opportunities with other companies.

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