Video Game Technology Becomes Part of Automotive Design

As CAD software becomes more integral to automotive component design, engineers rely more heavily on digital 3D models for packaging of components and assemblies.  Given strength and dimensional requirements, designers and drafters can create parts, assemblies, and even complete vehicles in virtual space.  This allows engineers to see the completed product and look for potential assembly or interference issues without making a single physical part.

This task becomes quite a bit more difficult when designers must consider human interaction with the vehicle.  The movements of people are extremely complex compared to that of most mechanical components found in a car.

Ford is now attempting to address this issue by using what they call “HOPS” (the Human Occupant Package Simulator).  Sensors are strategically attached to the test subject to monitor the location, orientation, and motion of his body as he moves in and around the vehicle.  This provides engineers with data from the sensors that can only be created by a live person doing normal things inside a physical model of the vehicle’s cabin.

This method should provide the engineers with excellent feedback regarding comfort and ergonomics without the need to build full prototypes.  By combining the motion capture data with an adjustable model of a vehicle cabin, designers can use software to predict how the driver will interact with the interior of the car.  From Ford’s press release:

“Comfort or discomfort is inherently a subjective measure,” said Nanxin Wang, Ford technical leader. “For a given vehicle, some people will say it’s comfortable to get in, while others may say just the opposite. The challenge is to find out why people feel that way and how we can change the design to improve the perception.

Although I’ve never considered this option for automotive design before, I’m a little surprised this is the first time it’s being used.  Comfort is a major selling point for many customers, and also a very difficult thing to perfect, so it really makes a lot of sense for Ford to incorporate it into the design of its new vehicles.

Source: Ford [via AutoBlog]

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