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

Volvo will use Epic's Unreal Engine to create 'photorealistic' graphics in its electric cars
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Volvo will be the latest automaker to harness the graphical prowess of Epic Games’ Unreal Engine. The Swedish automaker said it would partner with the Fortnite creator to introduce “photorealistic visualization” in its next generation of electric vehicles.

The core of the Volvo/Epic partnership will be the ‘human-machine interface’ (HMI), which, in the context of vehicle ownership, is another way of describing how car owners interact with software. of their vehicle. Volvo says Epic will help build a platform on which the automaker’s engineers can design software that will improve HMI while maintaining the levels of safety that Volvo has staked much of its reputation on.

“This technology gives us the ability to create very high-quality responsive visuals that we can play with and overlay information with, create realistic representations where needed, and all that kind of stuff,” said Thomas Stovicek, head of user experience at Volvo. Cars. “So it’s really about creating the next generation of HMIs for our customers.”

Image: Volvo

Security will be a central aspect of the new partnership, Stovicek said. Over the years, the company has built its reputation on safety and original designs, and today’s announcement aims to underscore that. Ideally, Volvo wants to use the Unreal Engine to render to drivers what the vehicle’s external sensors, such as the camera, radar and soon lidar, see outside the car without being “overwhelming”, it said. he declared, adding: “It can be difficult. proceed.”

Other information, such as navigation and battery life, as well as the presentation of that information, such as light, color and animations, will be improved through collaboration with Epic Gamers, Stovicek said.

The Unreal Engine is Epic’s primary tool for creating realistic 3D graphics, first featured in the 1998 first-person shooter Unreal. Since then it has been used in a variety of game genres and has been adopted by other industries including the film and television industry.

The automotive industry is a particularly attractive target for Epic Games, mainly because cars are easier to realistically render than humans. (Which also speaks to the popularity and proliferation of racing games.) More recently, Epic said it would work with GMC to provide HMI software for the 2022 Hummer EV pickup truck.

Image: Volvo

But Epic is increasingly interested in the automotive industry. The logic is simple: modern cars are primarily designed using software and feature dozens of on-board computers that rely on touchscreens and digital interfaces to power infotainment centers. And Unreal Engine is a great platform for creating software, so why not put that software in cars?

“It’s become very appealing with the new hardware that’s coming into cars, to think of the car as an additional platform that we should recognize,” said Heiko Wenczel, head of Epic Games’ Detroit lab, that it’s “from an HMI perspective, from a point of engagement, from what gaming capabilities can actually bring to user experiences inside the car.

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

Volvo said it plans to sell 600,000 electric vehicles by the middle of the decade and will build a battery manufacturing plant in Europe by 2026. The company said it was working with its partner Swedish Northvolt on a new generation of batteries with higher energy density designed to be integrated as a structural element of the vehicle. The new batteries, due after 2025, will allow longer range between charges – up to 625 miles (1,006 kilometers) – and much faster charging times.

Volvo also brings in-house software development as a means of expediting the deployment of new company fleet updates or fixing bugs in the system. The new operating system, which will be called VolvoCars.OS, will power the company’s next generation of electric vehicles and enable unattended driving on motorways.

Image: Volvo

The new operating system will act as an “umbrella system” for all underlying systems running in the vehicle, including Android Automotive, Blackberry’s QNX, Linux and AUTOSAR operating system. The company said its new architecture will feature a central computer made up of two system-on-chips provided by Nvidia. Initially, one will focus on basic driving functions and the other on semi-autonomous features and more advanced functions. In the future, Volvo hopes to synthesize the two computers into a single system for more efficient processing.

Ultimately, Volvo wants Epic Games’ help to modernize its next-gen vehicles, while acknowledging that feature bloat is a real problem. Much sharper renderings, richer colors and brand new 3D animations will of course be included. But anything that distracts the driver won’t be part of the package.

“Nothing is on 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 don’t distract the driver in the wrong way.”

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