Traffic: Virtual faster to the destination

Virtual World Test facilitates development of electronic driver assistants

Virtual reality instead of time-consuming real tests © Fraunhofer Gesellschaft
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Is the navigation system too complicated? Does it distract the driver from traffic? To test electronic helpers, the developers have to create numerous prototypes - an expensive and time-consuming affair. Tests in virtual worlds could reduce the number of prototypes in the future.

Concentrated, the engineer looks at the display in a virtual dashboard. He should test the new driver assistance systems from the user's point of view. How distracting is a read SMS in the roundabout? How does the driver perceive a collision warning in the fog? The developers of electronic helpers have to create many prototypes and test countless functions. That means a lot of time and money before the product is ready for the market. In the future, engineers will find it easier: in a virtual world, they can easily create virtual prototypes and simulate all functions.

Automobile manufacturers and suppliers in particular will benefit from "Personal Immersion" in the future. With this system for virtual reality and stereoscopic interactive simulation of the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO in Stuttgart tailor-made virtual environments can be represented; for example for the development of driver assistance systems.

"Our VR system does not only simulate the instruments, " explains Manfred Dangelmaier, project manager at the ILO. "In this system, all levels are virtual: the user sits in a virtual driving simulator, surrounded by a virtual world, in front of him a virtual instrument panel with a virtual operating system."

In this way, engineers can simulate every imaginable situation in order to test man-machine interfaces. Regardless of which traffic situation is to be displayed and what the driver's wish for the on-board electronics, such as retrieving the current congestion information, the imagination has no limits when testing the systems. "With such an interactive simulation, time and development costs can be significantly reduced, " says Dangelmaier. In addition, virtual reality in immersive engineering facilitates communication in interdisciplinary teams. display

So far, a problem with the representation of virtual worlds in the resolution of the projectors. "It's technically difficult to satisfactorily visualize the size of the environment and the details nearby, " says Dangelmaier. But the researchers have solved the problem: Instead of the usual in VR systems two projectors their systems work with four projectors in a complex stereo projection system.

(Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, 04.09.2007 - NPO)