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Volvo Cars is bringing photorealistic visualization to the interior of its upcoming electric cars through a collaboration with Epic Games. It’s a case of car engines and game engines coming together.
Volvo will use Epic’s Unreal Engine game engine to create high-quality interior graphics. Epic Games is a game engine maker and game developer best known for Fortnite, one of the biggest games in the world. Epic Games also develops the Unreal Engine 5, which launched this year as a real-time 3D creation tool for games and other industries.
Volvo Cars will use the engine to develop digital interfaces in its cars and render real-time graphics in the car.
Volvo Cars is the first European car manufacturer to use the Unreal Engine for Human Machine Interface (HMI) development. More specifically, it will initially focus on the driver information module (DIM), one of the displays in the cabin that provides the driver with relevant information and infotainment functions.
In the next generation of Volvo cars, customers will find stunning, high-quality graphics on these displays. Much sharper renderings, richer colors and all-new 3D animations are just the first steps as Volvo Cars developers continue to push the graphical boundaries, the companies said.
“To offer our customers the best possible user experience and contribute to a safe and personal journey, we need rich, immersive and responsive visualization in our cars,” said Henrik Green, chief product officer at Volvo Cars, in a statement. “Running Unreal Engine in our cars enables that and makes spending time in a Volvo even more enjoyable.”
By pairing the Unreal Engine with the processing power of the third-generation Qualcomm Snapdragon cockpit platforms, the next generation of Volvo vehicles will set a new standard in graphics and infotainment system performance, Volvo said.
As a result, Volvo Cars’ next-generation infotainment system will be more than twice as fast as its predecessor, while in-cabin graphics generation and processing will be up to 10 times faster.
“If you’re bringing interactive, real-time, high-resolution graphics into the car, open them
Door to a variety of new ways to inform and entertain everyone inside,” said Heiko Wenczel, director of automotive and HMI at Epic Games for Unreal Engine, in a statement. “Volvo Cars’ highly talented design and product development teams have seized this opportunity to create something new that will continue to evolve with exciting new features that leverage the power of Unreal Engine.”
The first car to feature the new graphics is the new all-electric flagship model that Volvo Cars will unveil later this year. This model is the first of a new generation of fully electric Volvo cars as it aims to sell only pure electric cars by 2030.
Going forward, the company sees additional opportunities for Unreal Engine to drive other areas of technology in new Volvo vehicles, as Volvo Cars developers continue to explore new applications for this and other software-driven technology platforms, while always keeping safety in mind.
Volvo Cars aims to develop half of all software in its vehicles in-house by mid-decade and is recruiting heavily within software development. By joining the company, programming talent will have numerous opportunities to work on exciting and groundbreaking new in-car applications and platforms. That’s pretty interesting for a company founded in 1927 with 40,000 employees.
“This new relationship isn’t just about bringing amazing, game-quality graphics to our cars. It’s about new ways of using visual communication to explain new technologies, deliver new customer benefits and bring the outside world safely inside the vehicle,” said Thomas Stovicek, Volvo Cars’ head of user experience, in a statement.
Stovicek highlights three areas of focus for his team. The first is how data is represented externally
Sensors (every new Volvo will be surrounded by many sensors) to make the driving experience as safe as possible
possible. As we move to higher levels of driver assistance, visualize what the vehicle sees and what
Choices it makes will be one of the most important ways it builds driver confidence.
Second, the technology offers the opportunity to provide completely new functions and services. These can add value to existing data and hardware – for example by using the external sensors to help the driver understand the environment around the vehicle. Or they can be entirely new ideas, building on the possibilities for new functions provided by real-time connectivity with the cloud, with other vehicles, and with infrastructure.
Looking ahead, Stovicek is honest about not having a clear picture of the future, but that makes the difference
it’s really exciting.
“As with the first smartphones, we’re not quite sure where this technology will take us or what our customers will value most,” he says. “Now, with Unreal Engine, we have everything we need to figure that out and get that new customer value into our cars very quickly. And that is the exciting thing about the future.”
Epic Games has released a free Automotive Field Guide to walk the reader through it
latest and most spectacular automotive applications of virtual reality, mixed reality, augmented reality
and real-time 3D graphics.
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