An advanced driving simulator helps Ford Motor Co. to launch new vehicles more efficiently.
The Dearborn, Michigan simulator that helped bring the Maverick and F-150 Lightning to market uses rFpro, a driving simulation software, and lidar to scan roads down to the millimeter to provide an immersive driver experience. to create, a Ford official said. †
“We use the simulator to fine-tune everything before we even build a prototype. Everything from the suspension, architecture, layout, base tuning, even developing all the handling characteristics, we did that in the simulator,” said Louis Jamail, Ford’s core methods and simulator supervisor.
“Once we got to the prototype stage, we were able to transfer all that knowledge to the physical prototype and do a lot less tuning and changes. That saves both time and money. And it also helps us deliver a more focused product from the get-go.”
Robert Rieveley, a technical expert on simulation, said the device’s motion capabilities also give it an advantage over other simulators.
“The simulator actually moves forward and backward, and we get to move within our operating range. So that movement actually gives you that acceleration-deceleration field. Larger simulators exist, but this was a great opportunity for us for engineering value,” said Rieveley.
Initially started as a racing simulator similar to the Ford Performance simulator in Charlotte, NC, the Dearborn simulator has evolved to replicate road vehicles, Jamail said.
“We started this simulator journey as a company in 2016. Since then, we’ve continued to develop the technology. We’ve partnered with Ford Performance over the past few years to run their simulator in Charlotte,” said Jamail. “Since then, we’ve adapted the simulator to all our production and mainstream products. It’s not just racing [simulator] not anymore.”
Ford can also now enable consumers to simulate driving in a vehicle, enabling valuable feedback, Rieveley said.
“We’re able to bring in real customers and get the voice of the customer, what do they think about what we’re designing, how can we improve it, and then we’re going to look at how we develop and validate our features,” Rievely said. . “We can really explore the space and see how our functions and how people react in those scenarios. And we’re able to do it efficiently and safely.”
The simulator will be key to getting Ford vehicles to consumers, Jamail said.
“I think it’s going to get pretty big. We can use this across the board,” Jamail said. “This is a really valuable tool because it doesn’t require a physical building; we can just view it in virtual space.”