Volkswagen to pioneer virtual concept car

Posted on 18 Oct 2017 by Jonny Williamson

Volkswagen Technical Development is already using a virtual concept car for the development of new production models.

The virtual concept car transfers all design and simulation of a Volkswagen model to a graphic engine – image courtesy of VW

Volkswagen plant, Technical Development, Hall 70, a Golf rolls up. The hall has no windows but the Golf glides through a sunny urban scene.

In this hall nothing is real, not even the Golf, since the car will only appear in a few years’ time.

The virtual Golf and its surrounding are the result of teamwork between the ‘Volkswagen Group IT Virtual Engineering Lab’ and the Technical Development Department of VW.

The Virtual Engineering Lab in Wolfsburg, is one of six competence centres now operated by the Volkswagen Group IT.

In the labs, IT experts, scientists and software specialists from Volkswagen work together with research institutes and technology partners on the digital future of the company.

Frank Ostermann, head of the Virtual Engineering Lab, said: “We transform virtual reality into a practical tool for our Technical Development colleagues.”

One result is the virtual concept car. The program transfers all the design and simulation data of a Volkswagen prototype to a graphic engine of the type used in video games.

Ostermann continues: “With the virtual concept car, we are going beyond a purely three-dimensional approach.

“We combine a full feeling of space with functionality. A driver not only looks at his or her car but also controls it. So that’s what we do in the virtual car, simply with hand movements, without a physical control. As in a real car.”

The virtual concept car is already in use for the development of the next Golf generation – image courtesy of VW

Volkswagen is using virtual concept cars for the development of production models, and the next Golf generation is being developed with this new tool.

Mathias Möhring, responsible for the digitalisation of the product creation process with Volkswagen Technical Development, says: “We use all the possibilities offered by digitalisation.

“The virtual concept car is a good example. And we still have a few ideas up our sleeve. I can tell you more later.”

According to VW, the main benefit of ‘virtual concept cars’ is the reduction of development costs. The number of physical prototypes which need to be produced individually in a costly process can be reduced massively.

As reported by Volkswagen, the virtual concept car also saves time, as all the components are designed digitally, their data can easily be transferred to the program.

The result is a virtual, properly functioning car of the next generation on which all the development team members can work together at the same time.

Möhring reported: “We already hold specific discussions at a very early stage; this would not be possible with physical prototypes and represents a gigantic leap forward.

The Virtual Engineering Lab is already working towards the next goal. To develop a virtual vehicle that allows a full experience and is fully operational, VW has launched a research project at Stanford University in California.

As reported by VW, users will be able to feel the virtual concept car in the future. To make this possible, a system of fine, pressure-sensitive pins simulates all the shapes and contours of the interior.

This will allow the users to feel the surfaces and controls which do not actually exist in the real world.

Ostermann: “If we could actually feel a virtual vehicle, that would take us to an entirely new dimension.”