Friday, September 22, 2023

Volvo to use Epic’s Unreal Engine to create ‘photorealistic’ graphics in its electric cars

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Volvo will be the latest automaker to leverage the graphics power of Epic Games’ Unreal Engine. The Swedish automaker said it will partner with the Fortnite creator to bring “photorealistic visualization” into its next generation of electric vehicles.

The crux of the collaboration between Volvo and Epic will be the “human-machine interface” (HMI), which, in the context of vehicle ownership, is another way of describing the way car owners interact with their vehicle’s software. Volvo says Epic will help build a platform on which the carmaker’s engineers can design software that improves HMI while maintaining the safety levels on which Volvo has built much of its reputation.

“This technology gives us the ability to create really high quality responsive images that we can play with and add information to, create realistic representations when needed, all that sort of thing,” said Thomas Stovicek, head of user experience at Volvo. cars. “So it’s really about creating the next generation of HMI for our customers.”

Image: Volvo

Security will be a core aspect of the new partnership, Stovicek said. Over the years, the company has built its reputation for safety and quirky designs, and today’s announcement is meant to underscore that. Ideally, Volvo wants to use the Unreal Engine to display what the vehicle’s external sensors, such as camera, radar and soon lidar, see outside the car for drivers without being “overwhelming”, he said, adding: “It can be difficult are processing.”

Other bits of information, such as navigation and battery life, as well as the presentation of that information, such as light, color and moving graphics, will be improved thanks to the partnership with Epic Gamers, Stovicek said.

The Unreal Engine is Epic’s primary tool for creating realistic 3D graphics, first shown in the 1998 first-person shooter Unreal† Since then, it has been used in various genres of games and has also been used by other industries, most notably the film and television industry.

The automotive industry is a particularly attractive target for Epic Games, especially because cars are more realistic to render than humans. (That also speaks to the popularity and proliferation of racing games.) Most recently, Epic said it would partner with GMC to provide HMI software for the 2022 Hummer EV pickup.

Image: Volvo

But Epic has become increasingly interested in the auto industry. The logic is simple: Modern cars are primarily designed using software and have numerous on-board computers that rely on touchscreens and digital interfaces to power infotainment centers. And Unreal Engine is a great platform for building software, so why not put that software in cars?

“It became very appealing with the new hardware coming into cars, to see the car as an additional platform that we should recognize,” said Heiko Wenczel, head of Epic Games’ Detroit lab, “from an HMI perspective. , of a leverage point, of which gaming possibilities can actually contribute to the user experiences in the car.”

Neither Volvo nor Epic want to say which vehicles will be the first with software provided by the Unreal Engine or what kind of timeline customers should expect these features to be rolled out to the wider Volvo fleet.

Volvo said it plans to sell 600,000 EVs by the middle of the decade and build a battery factory in Europe by 2026. The company has said it is working with Swedish partner Northvolt on a new generation of higher energy density batteries designed to be integrated as a structural element of the vehicle. The new batteries, expected after 2025, will allow for a longer range between charges – up to 1,006 kilometers – and much faster charge times.

Volvo also in-house software development to speed up the implementation of new updates to the company’s fleet or to correct bugs in the system. The new operating system, which will be called VolvoCars.OS, will power the company’s next-generation electric vehicles and enable unsupervised driving on highways.

Image: Volvo

The new operating system will act as an “umbrella system” for all underlying systems operating in the vehicle, including Android Automotive OS, Blackberry’s QNX, Linux and AUTOSAR. The company said the new architecture will feature a core computer consisting of two systems-on-a-chip provided by Nvidia. Initially, one will focus on key driving functions and the other on semi-autonomous functions and more advanced functions. In the future, Volvo hopes to merge the two computers into one system for more efficient processing.

Ultimately, Volvo wants Epic Games’ help in modernizing its next-generation vehicles, while also recognizing that feature bloat is a real problem. Much sharper views, richer colors and brand new 3D animations will of course be included. But anything that distracts the driver isn’t part of the package.

“Nothing is off the table for us,” Stovicek said. “But of course what’s important to us is that we introduce it at the right time, while making sure we have a safe driving experience and not distracting the driver in the wrong way.”

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