12 June 2024

The Blossoming of AR, VR and XR Car Design

From collaboration to acceleration – digital development is BIG news!

For the average Joe, the most memorable developments in car tech are the ones that make life easier. Can you imagine hand-cranking a car to start like in the bad old days? Or how about driving without air-con in Arizona…? In July!?

But while these innovations of the past don’t seem quite as gob smacking to the modern motorist as the rise of the EV car or development of the self-driving vehicle, one thing’s for sure – the car industry’s next step is as hard to predict as whether Apple is in or out of the car business this week.

And the same thing goes for the blossoming of AR, VR and XR car design. Leading the field is world-building pioneer Timmy Ghiurãu, who joined Volvo in 2014. Timmy’s a star speaker at the NEXT24 conference in Hamburg this September, incidentally, and it’s fair to say that investors and leaders in the car industry will be hanging on his every word. Exactly what those words are will undoubtedly be on the minds of most VR, AR and XR professionals for the foreseeable future. Why?

Because we’re talking about a vehicle sector predicted to be worth £42 billion and creating 38,000 skilled jobs by 2035 in the UK alone.

This may also surprise you – in a (nearly) headline-grabbing moment, UK legislation has already been passed to prepare for self-driving vehicles to buzz around British roads by 2026.

The Automated Vehicles (AV) Act may have become law on 20 May 2024, but does the industry have the date in its diary?


XR experts to the rescue

This is where experts like Timmy Ghiurãu are helping to speed things along. Volvo initially recruited Ghiurãu because of his expertise with eye-tracking, and its value in detecting how engaged a driver is with monitoring the work of an autonomous vehicle. So far, this idea has remained on the back burner, but the XR train is still rolling into other stations.

First off, XR is allowing designers to visualise their designs, while Volvo’s XR streaming system has enabled efficient collaboration between the US, China and Volvo’s HQ to take place at the speed of light. These quick-step processes reduce the cost by millions in the early stages of design.

To enable this work, Timmy involved the Unity engine in creating a system for modelling cars in VR and XR.

Unity is also keen to promote the idea: “Teams are able to adopt the technology for themselves – they’re not dependent on developers to build mixed reality solutions. Because of this democratisation, the teams have found that their uses of mixed reality go beyond what was originally anticipated.”

Volvo teams have been using the tech for simulating fluid dynamics and predicting crash test data flows. Meanwhile other industry competitors are using Unity’s real-time 3D tech to visualise the future, including testing and simulating for long-term scenarios, or powering next-level infotainment systems.

The 2024 Honda Prologue full-electric SUV was the first Honda model designed primarily through VR visualisation technology. VR was vital for overcoming the collaboration and efficiency challenges that the team was faced with during the pandemic.

Honda VR Design Leader Mathieu Geslin explained that his teams used the latest VR tech to visualise the Prologue in “different environments and to accelerate cross-collaboration between Honda styling teams in the U.S. and Japan.” He and his team are also committed to the “ongoing effort to further explore the technical capabilities of VR and mixed reality in our development centres globally.”


A peek inside the headset…

If all this talk has got you curiouser and curiouser, then take a look at this video starring Varjo’s enterprise-focused XR-3 headset. The supporting role goes to the Australia-based design team behind the Ford Ranger, Ranger Raptor and Everest, led by Visualization Manager Andrew Dallan-Jones. They’re adamant that mixed reality allows colleagues to hash things out early on before committing to a physical prototype, which, in turn, speeds up the design process, and reduces changes.

US electric car company Rivian is another Varjo XR tech devotee. Rivian says the total cost of savings just from the reduced need for materials and physical mock-ups has been “a million dollars per vehicle program.” Game, set, match!

AR is also reaching the consumer in a more direct way. Big-name car brands such as Audi and Mercedes-Benz are using next-generation head-up displays (HUDs) incorporating augmented reality. The HUDs take data from cameras and GPS to display vital information onto the windscreen. We’ve no idea how many accidents this will prevent when HUDs become a car-industry standard feature, but we’re guessing gazillions.

As we can see, the possibilities for AR and XR in vehicle design are only just coming into focus, with many more on the horizon. And for the professionals involved in its development, this is going to be the ride of their lives.


Do you have the kind of ideas that could help Elon Musk climb further up the career ladder?

Great – then we need to talk! The brilliant mustard FX division has a constant stream of the best jobs in the industry landing on its desk. Call us now on 0117 929 6060.





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