Driving simulators are great fun. Over here in the AutoBuzz.my office, we use ours not just to let off some steam after a long work day, but also to help keep our car handling chops in check – especially useful now that we can’t just go out for a drive in this Covid-19 climate. We’d wager that most people use their simulators like us, but the engineers at Volvo take their simulators a little more seriously.

Dubbed the “ultimate driving simulator”, Volvo’s set-up consisting of a moving seat, steering wheel with haptic feedback, and a virtual-reality headset is used to help engineers test out their safety features of their cars, as well as study authentic human reactions using these systems, all in a safe environment and at a fraction of the cost of a real test.

To that end, the simulators are tied-in to the real-time 3D development platform Unity, which allows the virtual-reality experts from Varjo to generate life-like 3D graphics and driving situations in real-time. Test subjects also wear a full-body Teslasuit that provides haptic feedback from the virtual environment, while also monitoring the user’s bodily reactions.

Volvo’s Open Innovation Arena’s senior leader of User Experience, Casper Wickman said, “Working together with great companies like Varjo, Unity and Teslasuit has allowed us to test so many scenarios that look and feel totally real, without having to physically build anything. It lets us test drive actual cars through traffic scenarios that look and feel real, but can be adjusted at the touch of a button.”

Volvo uses their simulators to test out imaginary new active safety and driver assistance features, upcoming autonomous drive user interfaces, and even future car models. As mentioned above, these features can be put to the test in “literally endless” scenarios, such as specifically-designed test tracks or a simulated real-life traffic situation, and every scenario is fully customizable.

Testing is a crucial procedure in the development of safety systems for cars, but testing these systems in reality can be dangerous, time-consuming, and not to mention – expensive. As these simulation technologies continue to mature to a point where it’s becoming almost impossible to differentiate virtual to reality, it’s immediately obvious why more and more car manufacturers – not just Volvo – are including driving simulators as part of their development process.

“By using this cutting-edge technology, we are exploring and leading the development for creating safe cars in the future. It’s great to play a part in that,” Wickman added. The “ultimate driving simulator” was shown off at a live-stream event yesterday – you can see it in action here.