Test drive in the virtual interior
What at first looks like the latest version of the Car Driving Simulator is in fact the modern test environment for the development of new safety functions in cars. In this simulated environment, IAV uses synthetic sensor data from the computer – and tools from game development. Photorealistic renderings are used instead of real people and test vehicles.
Tool from game development
The technical basis for these photorealistic simulations is the Unreal Engine from U.S. manufacturer Epic Games, which is normally used to produce computer games and Hollywood films. IAV’s experts use the Unreal Engine to create vehicle interiors and people in high quality and detail. Variations in the interior are just as easy to customize as the deceptively real representation of people of all ethnicities, ages and genders.
Moreover, the digital occupants from the computer are not static pillars of salt: They move during the simulated journey (for example, when accelerating or making a sharp turn) and change their facial expressions – just like real passengers. Light and shadow also permanently change the reflections in the interior and thus provide the algorithms with extremely realistic training data. The synthetic sensor values have another appealing feature: They are already perfectly segmented, so there is no need to manually assign individual pixels to different body parts, which speeds up the entire process enormously.
End-to-end tool chain for the entire development process
“The safeguarding of functions in the interior is becoming increasingly important,” says Brenneis. “This applies to all future vehicles, but especially to self-driving cabs. If we were to leave out the person behind the wheel, the technology must be able to keep an eye on the interior and its occupants.”
IAV is meeting the increasing need for testing that this entails with a hybrid safeguard: The bulk of the data comes from the computer. Real test drives are only scheduled at the end of the process. This means that new interiors and derivatives can also be tested without any great effort. Moreover, the innovative approach is not limited to safeguarding: “The synthetic sensor data is also suitable for designing the functions,” explains Brenneis. This enables IAV to offer its customers an end-to-end tool chain for the entire development process. The virtual interior is available for simulated test drives at any time.