Ford VIRTTEX, by VIRtual Test Track EXpriment, is a advanced virtual reality driving simulator. There are many simulators of this type in the world, and Ford has one of them in the United States. Is in the city of Dearborn, not far from Detroit, in the State of Michigan, in the center of research and development of the brand.
This type of Simulator costs several million dollars. Ford Motor Company released the Simulator Ford VIRTTEX in the year 2001, and last year updated it and updated. Engadget has been lucky to be able to visit, in addition to other no less interesting activities that Ford had prepared for us, and that we also told you at the end.
What is and how Ford VIRTTEX?
Ford VIRTTEX very reminiscent of a Flight Simulator. Within a ship high and square one closed circular dome 7.31 m in diameter it is elevated about six large hydraulic telescopic arms. Attached to the dome is a control room, with a large glass window overlooking the Simulator.
In the room Fourteen computers they are committed to operate and monitor the Simulator. The simulator consists of four key elements:
Computers are responsible for generating the images from a virtual reality that allows us to see a road with signs and traffic that lead. The generation tries to be as realistic as possible, and can play different hours of the day (day, night, dawn, dusk) and different weather conditions (dry weather, rain, fog, snow).
The walls of the inside of the dome are white and seven projectors with a total resolution of 45 megapixels they are committed to display images which the driver will see, even the images that would be seen by mirrors, covering 360 degree.
A car driving
Inside the dome, anchored to the floor of the same so that it does not move, there is a true car. In particular a SUV Ford Edge, a real model that is manufactured and is available for sale, but that is a bit special for the occasion: engine does not have nor has suspension and brakes, the rest remains virtually unchanged. Is painted in matte black for annoying glare evitra due to beams of light from projectors.
As the car has no engine, the sound of the engine, accelerating or braking noise, noise (aerodynamic and rolling) car and the sounds of the traffic (of the other vehicles in the road, rain, etc) are also generated by computer and are heard inside the dome using a surround speaker system THX.
Motion and inertia
Computers are also in charge of controlling the hydraulic arms, and these to extend or retract, move the dome upward or downward, forward or backward and in addition to lean it forward or backward (20 degrees in each direction), tilt it to the right or to the left (20 degrees in each direction) and rotate it clockwise or counterclockwise (40 degrees in each direction) to simulate the movements that would have a true car on the road.
For example when stopped the inertia It would that the nose of the car driving on the ground (more technically say that chassis nods), and at the same time us inside the car we would go forward. As well this movement is simulated by moving the dome fast backward and tilting the front down.
In the same way, but conversely, simulates the acceleration that beats us to the seat, displacing the dome fast forward and tilting the front up. And the same for rotations (yaw), or when you draw a curve, as the Simulator as well as turn tilts to simulate centrifugal force (rolling).
The hydraulic system can also generate vibration, between 0 and 20 Hz, and give shocks, to simulate for example a road with asphalt in disrepair or potholes. The feeling is achieved in this Simulator is very realistic.
This Simulator is used for what?
The main purpose of this Simulator is to check safely react different drivers to problems and unforeseen that can arise while driving, or study how to affect certain distractions to the driver, and thus know how slow to react and how do it, and also check how they interact with the controls of the vehicle, assess different visibility conditions, analyze the fatigue driving, stress, etc.
The good thing about a Simulator as Ford VIRTTEX is that you can drive and have a scare at a crossroads with a vehicle that has skipped a stop, you can cross ahead in the middle of the road an animal at night, or the driver at the wheel, to cite various situations, can sleep and even if the driver does not exceed the test and the accident, nothing happens.
Speaking of distractions, with this Simulator you can see what happens when a driver is talking on the phone while driving, or try to send a text message, or manipulates the sound equipment. Can be quantified e.g. how long has reserved view of the road, how many meters has come without looking or if the car has deviated from its trajectory.
Among others, Ford has used this Simulator to develop multimedia connectivity and control system voice Ford Sync with MyFord Touch, to optimize its management, check how distracted less, is where best to put such or which mouse button, or what kind of touch screen is more practical, among many other things.
A camera inside the car, on the dashboard in front of the driver, oversees State and movements of this. Within not only control room are the same that would be seen by the driver at the wheel, but what makes this.
Working with security systems
But not only is about understanding the drivers when they are behind the wheel, it is also of to test new safety and driving assistance systems that they can reduce the risk of an accident and are still experimental.
Several of them we have spoken on other occasions, such as when we tested them in the Lommel Ford test track, for example the fatigue detector or dream of the driver, the dead angle detector, the recognition of traffic signs, the rail Maintenance Wizard or the anti-collision system and automatic braking, to name a few.
With the Simulator Ford VIRTTEX You can check how it works a system, and how it is more effective for the driver. For example consider that the Maintenance Wizard is being put to test track. This system sees the rail lines and if our path deviates and we’re going to come out, by driver distraction for example, first warns us of this and then acts on the address to try to keep the car in the lane.
Therefore in this case Ford in addition to analyze whether it is better for the system to act a little earlier or a little later, checks What kind of warning is more effective or prefer drivers: an alarm sound (and how’s that sound), a visual message (one alert in the box of instruments, a text, a light, what color of light, where) or a vibration (on the steering wheel, the seat, with intense).
This issue of the type of warning to use found that it is more important than it seems, since not all drivers react equally, nor all the stimuli they receive equal fast, either can be perceived worse according to the driving conditions (for example if the vibration in the steering wheel is very soft can be confused with a bump (, or if the audible alarm has a volume low can not hear well to go hear the radio).
Here’s a video of the engineer Mike Blommer, responsible for VIRTTEX, briefly explaining the Simulator.
Henry Ford, hybrid and electric cars Museum
But in Dearborn Ford not only taught us the VIRTTEX Simulator. We were able to visit the interesting Museum, Henry Ford, much more than a car Museum, as it is also a Museum of American history and the industry and technology of the 20th century (don’t miss the article with Photo Gallery-bound published in Motorpasión).
And we could also meet in person and drive plug-in hybrid and hybrid models of Ford, Ford Mondeo and the Ford c-Max Hybrid and Energi, and the Ford Focus electric, version 100% electric battery of Focus that we know (in this case if you want to know all the details I invite you to read the two articles published in Motorpasión future links).
Costs of travel and accommodation to visit the complex of Ford in Dearborn (United States) and attend the trials and demonstrations have been borne by the brand. For more information please refer to our policy of relations with companies.