Auto manufacturers given extra competitive edge

EUREKA, the pan-European network for market-oriented, industrial R&D, has developed a driving simulator that promises to give automotive manufacturers an extra competitive edge.

With contemporary simulation systems often falling short of R&D expectations, the eight-company-strong team of EUREKA project CARDS (Comprehensive Automobile Research and Development Simulator) sought to design a superior driving simulation system. EUREKA is a pan-European network for market-oriented, industrial R&D.

‘The simulator allows manufacturers to perform virtual prototyping of their R&D innovations and test people’s perceptions of the new design,’ explained Dr. Andras Kemeny, Manager of project leader Renault’s Technical Centre for Simulation.

Through a head-mounted display unit (HMD) that uses software originally developed for flight simulation, the user test-drives the car ‘virtually’.

‘Using the head-mounted display, the virtual dashboard can be changed or modified very easily, almost in real time,’ Kemeny said. With the display system there is a sensor that monitors the position and rotations of the user’s head, so that the image inside the unit changes with the car’s simulated movement.

‘A lot of people know how a car should react in a given circumstance; what we tried to do is achieve the behaviour of a motion system that comes very close to that,’ said Jack van Hoek, of Rexroth Hydraudyne BV, a Dutch company involved in the project.

Unlike most virtual simulators, the HMD developed in the CARDS project has a large field of view and high resolution, and it is light, weighing less than one kilogram.

It is integrated with a full-scale driving simulator which includes a motion platform with greatly reduced noise levels and a vibration seat. The comprehensive modular design and testing tool means that the car user feels the full effect of driving the newly designed car, right down to the engine revving.

According to Kemeny, CARDS provides an efficient tool for fully integrated virtual prototype car design engineering. The team believes it will sell more than 100 units over the next three years.

‘In effect, if we have a good HMD in Europe, that’s all thanks to EUREKA. It’s a question of knowledge and money, and without the EUREKA project it would not have been possible,’ added Kemeny.

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