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Ford upgrades virtual reality simulator

Ford recently upgraded its Virtual Test Track Experiment simulator with improved image rendering technologies and capabilities to study driver performance.

The Virttex virtual reality simulator has been involved in driver distraction research and new safety technology development at Ford since 2001. Ford

Ford's Virtual Test Track Experiment (Virttex) just got a major technology upgrade.

Virttex, developed in 2001, is a high-fidelity, motion-based simulator that features a dome on top of a hydraulic system to mimic vehicle movement, giving it a slight resemblance to a jellyfish.

The upgraded image rendering technologies will provide a high-res, digitally projected 360-degree horizontal field-of-view to test and measure driver acceleration, braking and steering performance as well as overall driver reactions in varying conditions. This will help Ford develop and test active safety and driver aid technologies that warn drivers of imminent collision, drowsiness and other potentially dangerous scenarios behind the wheel.

"Virttex plays an integral role in helping us develop future safety and driver assist technology, making it essential to keep the simulator current with the latest technology," said Mike Blommer, technical lead for the lab, in a press release. "Coupled with improvements in the resolution and brightness of the projection technologies, as well as improved imagery capabilities, we will be able to boost our capabilities to conduct active safety studies."

The technology upgrade offers improved more realistic scenery including other traffic, pedestrians and roadside landmarks. Engineers are using Virttex for Ford's Lane Keeping System and collision warning for the new Fusion, the company said.

Ford is also working on a study of advanced early-warning systems such as forward collision warning, a radar-based system designed to help avoid or minimize the effect of rear-end collisions. Researchers are looking at different types of warnings such as audible, visual, and tactile or vibrating warnings--and whether they are effective alone or in combinations.