Car News

Ford Uses Virtual Reality to Improve Safety, Design

RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2011 Ford Edge AWD SEL
Used 2011 Ford Edge
$9,987
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2011 Ford Mustang Coupe
Used 2011 Ford Mustang
$9,987
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2011 Ford Escape Limited Hybrid
Used 2011 Ford Escape
$8,997
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2011 Ford F150 STX
Used 2011 Ford F150
$11,194
RELATED READING
See all Ford any articles
RESEARCH BY MAKE
Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs
Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Alfa Romeo cars, trucks and SUVs AMC cars, trucks and SUVs Aston Martin cars, trucks and SUVs Audi cars, trucks and SUVs Bentley cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Bugatti cars, trucks and SUVs Buick cars, trucks and SUVs Cadillac cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Chrysler cars, trucks and SUVs Daewoo cars, trucks and SUVs Datsun cars, trucks and SUVs DeLorean cars, trucks and SUVs Dodge cars, trucks and SUVs Eagle cars, trucks and SUVs Ferrari cars, trucks and SUVs FIAT cars, trucks and SUVs Fisker cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Freightliner cars, trucks and SUVs Genesis cars, trucks and SUVs Geo cars, trucks and SUVs GMC cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs HUMMER cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs INFINITI cars, trucks and SUVs Isuzu cars, trucks and SUVs Jaguar cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Kia cars, trucks and SUVs Lamborghini cars, trucks and SUVs Land Rover cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Lincoln cars, trucks and SUVs Lotus cars, trucks and SUVs Maserati cars, trucks and SUVs Maybach cars, trucks and SUVs Mazda cars, trucks and SUVs McLaren cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs Mercury cars, trucks and SUVs MINI cars, trucks and SUVs Mitsubishi cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Oldsmobile cars, trucks and SUVs Plymouth cars, trucks and SUVs Pontiac cars, trucks and SUVs Porsche cars, trucks and SUVs RAM cars, trucks and SUVs Rolls-Royce cars, trucks and SUVs Saab cars, trucks and SUVs Saturn cars, trucks and SUVs Scion cars, trucks and SUVs smart cars, trucks and SUVs SRT cars, trucks and SUVs Subaru cars, trucks and SUVs Suzuki cars, trucks and SUVs Tesla cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Volvo cars, trucks and SUVs Yugo cars, trucks and SUVs
RESEARCH BY STYLE
AWD/4WD
Commercial
Convertible
Coupe
Hatchback
Hybrid/Electric
Luxury
Sedan
SUV/Crossover
Truck
Van/Minivan
Wagon
ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader May 2010

Glenn Harrington leans over a metal frame as his avatar repeats the motion in perfect sync. Harrington wears enormous goggles covered in motion sensors and looks like he just stepped off a high-tech movie set, but he's actually part of a Ford Motor Company team that's using virtual reality to build a better car.

Ford has taken its cues from the film and video game industries to improve auto design. With several high-tech labs, Ford cites virtual reality for helping the company reduce injuries, costs and timelines.

The avatars, "Jack" and "Jill," help the Assembly Ergonomics team assess vehicle parts and predict potential assembly-line injuries. The virtual models ensure that operators can successfully install parts within their physical limitations.

"We use Jill who is roughly five feet tall to test reach, knowing that if a small person can reach, so can a large person. We use Jack, who is roughly six-foot-two to test hand clearance," said Harrington, an Assembly Ergonomics Technical Specialist.

The Assembly Ergonomics team also uses research on average strength to ensure that 90% of the adult population can complete a job.

Filmmakers used similar motion-capture technology to create Gollum in "Lord of the Rings." To create the avatars, Harrington wears the special goggles to virtually see a manufacturing scenario, like installing a hose, and physically reproduces the steps needed to assemble the part. Overhead cameras detect 52 motion sensors attached to Harrington and transmit the information to software that creates the models. Filmmakers used similar motion-capture technology to create Gollum in "Lord of the Rings."

If the Assembly Ergonomics team finds a potential injury risk, they work with the design engineering team to solve it. "The refrigerator in the [Ford] Flex is awesome… but it's right in the middle of the vehicle and it's really heavy," said Allison Stephens, Technical Specialist.

The solution was a 'happy seat.' An operator rides on an arm through the car door to install the refrigerator, alleviating twisting and turning.

Ford has had a 90% reduction in issues related to assembly ergonomics, due in part to virtual reality, according to Harrington.

"Nobody likes to find a failure, but if you're going to find it, find it early and find it internally and get it fixed before it ever goes to the customer that buys the vehicle," Harrington said. "A happy worker builds a better product."

Ford is also testing a new avatar, Santos, who can monitor advanced functions like heart rate, blood pressure and fatigue. Santos was originally created for the U.S. Department of Defense and is still in the test phase for use in manufacturing ergonomics, according to Ford.

Virtual Test Track Experiment

Ford is also using virtual reality to help develop active safety technology. Virtual Test Track Experiment, or VIRTTEX, is a multi-million dollar driving simulator that allows test subjects to virtually experience traffic, near collisions and driving distractions.

VIRTTEX looks like a planetary dome on hydraulic legs, which move the dome twelve-feet laterally and six-feet vertically, simulating hills and curves. Inside, a 360-degree driving scene is projected on the walls while a test subject sits in a car, which operates normally.

"We can make a winter scene or a wet driving scene and change the friction on the road," said Mike Blommer, VIRTTEX Technical Lead. "Think of it as a big video game on steroids."

Virtual drowsy driving test

In its drowsy-driving study, Ford asked subjects to stay awake for 24-hours, then conducted a 3-hour simulated nighttime drive. Subjects wore eye-tracking devices that detected when their eyes shut.

The study helped develop Ford's Collision Warning with Brake Support. VIRTTEX studies on distracted driving behaviors, like texting or talking on the phone, have also helped develop Ford's connectivity systems, SYNC and MyFord Touch.

The simulator is so effective that people sometimes forget they're not really driving. "We've had people ask to roll down the window for some fresh air to stay awake," Blommer said. "That's when I thought we must be doing something right."

If Blommer had to ride with a sleepy driver, who would it be? "A middle aged woman did the best," he said. "They attributed it to having kids." Blommer would least like to ride with a tired younger, male. "They said they could stay awake, but they were usually the first asleep," he added.

Virtual Vehicle Programming

Other specialized virtual reality tools, like the Programmable Vehicle Model, help engineers virtually step inside a completed vehicle to assess design elements, like interior leather grain or knob distance. They've cut months out of the production cycle by reducing the number of prototypes needed.

"All those physical to visual connections are made here," said Elizabeth Baron, Virtual Reality and Advanced Visualization Technical Specialist. "This whole lab is all about what your experience is in the vehicle."

In the virtual world, Baron has the power to turn on the sun and virtually put a sun visor down. "We can evaluate coverage from [the driver's] eye point or someone else's," she said. The virtual environment can be easily adapted to see how customers of different shapes and sizes will experience the vehicle's design.

Baron can also simulate passing cars or pedestrians, like a small child walking in front of the car. Engineers can analyze blind spots and headrest positions to correct line-of-site problems.

Ford says that it is the first in the industry to combine the Programmable Vehicle Model with motion-capture technology to create realistic driving experiences.

RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2011 Ford Edge AWD SEL
Used 2011 Ford Edge
$9,987
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2011 Ford Mustang Coupe
Used 2011 Ford Mustang
$9,987
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2011 Ford Escape Limited Hybrid
Used 2011 Ford Escape
$8,997
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2011 Ford F150 STX
Used 2011 Ford F150
$11,194
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Ford Uses Virtual Reality to Improve Safety, Design - Autotrader