Issue: Sep 2010


Development Simulator Speeds Validation of Future Infotainment Solutions



Safety drives General Motors's technology development - Chevrolet Volt first to use leading-edge simulator

by Alan Tran

As the path between consumer electronics and vehicle connectivity converge, Chevrolet, Buick GMC and Cadillac are focused on making the drive safe, yet pleasurable, while offering access to a variety of smart in-vehicle infotainment technologies.

Drivers and passengers want to be informed and entertained, and General Motors plans to leverage various technologies to provide cutting-edge solutions to safely meet consumer needs. GM will be a leader in providing safe, smart and easy-to-use features that will transform the way people interact with their vehicles.

"Within the next nine to 18 months, GM will aggressively introduce a wide variety of in-vehicle infotainment solutions providing smart, intuitive and safe technologies that will improve the driving experience," says Micky Bly, GM's executive director of Electrical Architectures and Infotainment. "In bringing this technology to market, the one thing we never lose sight of is that driver safety remains our highest priority."

Engineers and designers are focused on assuring drivers will keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, while driving. That's why GM has invested in an advanced driving simulation lab focused on validating the integration of new technologies for next-generation interiors. The simulator, which has been operational for more than a year, helps designers, engineers and research teams develop and validate concepts designed to provide safe and smart infotainment technology.

The simulator uses seven high-definition Christie projectors - similar to those used in movie theaters - to display a virtual roadway and landscape on a 360 degree series of large theater-style screens. A vehicle body with a reconfigurable interior system with multiple LCD screens is placed in the center of the screen area. The LCD screens are used to mock up future interior electronics layouts developed by GM's design staff. Reconfigurable LCD screens provide maximum flexibility for designers and engineers to test concepts within hours of development.

The plug-and-play nature of the system allows the lab team to download interior layout concepts for review without having to cut tools or build physical interior models, providing faster validation at less cost. Additionally, GM gains better in-house research and understanding about the behavior of drivers in various scenarios.

During testing, a subject "drives" the vehicle with the interior concept design along a virtual road while being asked to conduct various tasks - such as accessing music from their mobile device or adjusting cabin temperature - while maintaining lane position at a predetermined speed.

The lab also tests the subject's ability to decipher various gauge configurations to see whether font sizes, arrangements or other features could improve driver behavior and performance. The goal is to measure variation in operator speed and lane deviation by monitoring eye, foot and hand movement while they are completing various tasks. If a task results in unacceptable levels of driver performance, the design and engineering teams refine the concept to improve driver performance.

"Our research team is focused on developing interiors that allow customers to be connected while arriving safely at their desired destination," said Tom Seder, GM R&D group lab manager. "Customers want a safer and simpler way to connect with the latest technologies and we are focused on developing solutions that will deliver on that."

Designers, engineers and researchers worked collaboratively using GM's advanced interior simulator for refining the interior layout of the Chevrolet Volt, the first GM vehicle to use the simulator. The company is using the simulator on future Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC vehicles and OnStar technologies to maintain GM's leadership in developing safe and smart in-vehicle technology solutions.

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