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Connected cars come with their own set of lighting chal¬lenges. GPS screens, Smartphones, entertainment controls, head up displays and more are competing with the dashboard instrumentation, as well as interior and exterior light sources for the attention of the driver.

As a result, there is a growing demand and need for the use of simulation software during the design phase in order to ensure driver safety, reduce costs, and speed up time to market. One of the early leaders in the field is award-winning French firm OPTIS, which has been providing simulation software and consulting, services since 1989. The company’s SPEOS simulation software measures optical properties and brings realism to visualizations of car exteriors as well as interior and fit and finish.

In February 2012 the company announced that SPEOS for CREO Parametric (formerly called Pro/ENGINEER) design software now integrates with PTC Windchill PDMLink. Windchill PDMLink facilitates real-time collaboration between the various product development functions, as well as being an advanced tool for configuration and change management. “This represents a significant improvement for designers of products and systems for a wide range of markets including aerospace and the automotive, industry,” says Jacques Delacour, CEO and President of OPTIS.

The OPTIS products help automotive designers who have to factor in safety and driver comfort. Monitors for reversing, assistance technology for taking dangerous left turns, technologies to help drivers parallel park are all being incorporated into vehicles, and the OPTIS tool “Digital vision and Surveillance” has been developed in association with a panel of experts, to optimize the positioning and performance of these on-board digital vision systems.

In 2007, Nissan introduced the world’s first Around View Monitor in the Infiniti EX and FX since 2008. AVM assists the driver during parking procedures with a screen display that shows a bird’s eye view of the car and its surroundings and gives audible warnings when the car is near an object. A “rear wide view function” provides a 180° view from both the front and rear ends of the vehicle at the flick of a switch – a useful function at junctions/intersections with poor right-and-left visibility.

In 2011, Ford introduced an active park assist. An option on the Ford Focus, Explorer, Escape, Flex, Lincoln MKS and Lincoln MKT, the technology uses an ultrasonic-based sensing system and electric power-assisted steering (EPAS) to position the vehicle for parallel parking, calculate the optimal steering angle and quickly steer the vehicle into a parking spot. “With the touch of a button, drivers can parallel park quickly, easily and safely without ever touching the steering wheel,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s group vice president of Global Product Development.

BMW is introducing driver’s assistance technology for cars that can prevent a collision if the driver ends up making a potentially dangerous mistake. The “left hand drive assistant” uses a combination of three laser scanners, a video camera and GPS to determine if a left turn the driver is about to make is unsafe. When the system senses this, it automatically slams on the brakes and alerts the driver by generating a warning sound accompanied by flashing signals.

BMW has already implemented “The Steering Wheel is the Driving Instructor” for its BMW driver training – the TrackTrainer With the aid of this assistance technology, a vehicle can follow the ideal racing line on a racetrack such as the Nürburgring Northern Loop, without the driver having to steer, brake or accelerate. Drivers experience at first-hand how to approach the corners. The vehicle travels around the racetrack fully automatically during the initial training phase. During the second phase, the driver is allowed to take the wheel again. He or she steers the vehicle his/herself, whilst receiving haptic, acoustic and visual feedback on their driving abilities. For example, red LEDs, three of which are located both to the left and right of the instruments on the dashboard, signal deviations from the racing line. The weaker the lights become, the nearer the driver is to the ideal racing line. During a third and final phase, the driver takes the vehicle around the racetrack entirely on his or her own without any assistance. This was the precursor of BMW’s advanced automated driver assistance systems – engineers at BMW had equipped a BMW 5 sedan with intelligent software and environment detection systems last year. The prototype system can control acceleration and braking – which is critical for when vehicles are merging into traffic at motorway exit and access points.

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Pete Moorhouse, vice-president, sales and marketing, OPTIS, to tell us more about developments in the company’s SPEOS software that have helped automotive OEMs improve the design process.

Moorhouse: OPTIS has been developing simulation software for the past 23 years, and our technology is well established throughout the automotive OEM marketplace and their Tier 1 suppliers. We have constantly reinvested in R&D to deliver innovative solutions for lighting and optical specialists, and our unique approach of using physics-based simulation sets us apart from other solutions in that we provide the only true interpretation of what a driver will actually see. In recent years we have developed this technology in real time providing a compelling link between design and engineering disciplines. When deployed as an integral part of the product development process we have proven to save costs on physical prototypes and time to market. By introducing a reliable and repeatable toolset we have taken virtual prototyping to an advanced level where decision making is being made possible without the need for costly hand built models. As new technologies (such as LED’s) and new requirements (such as Head Up Displays) have been introduced into the market, OPTIS has always worked with customers and suppliers to ensure that our technology is fully supportive with constantly updated light source and material libraries and specialized software modules to enable companies to correctly model emerging, innovative technology.

AI: What are OPTIS’ strengths in terms of offering what clients need – how closely does the company work with its customers?
Moorhouse: OPTIS is present in eight countries. and we are able to support our customers with expert help in local languages. As a management team we make a point of being present to support our worldwide subsidiaries with an almost constant presence and regular customer visits and seminars. Our strengths lie in being close and listening to customers and helping them on their technological journey. Regular software updates and new products help each and every one of our customers to take full advantage of the very latest technology. We also encourage partnerships with customers to jointly develop high value, specialized solutions to solve complex problems.

AI: Tell us a little about the automotive OEMs OPTIS has worked with and what major technologies have been designed using your software.
Moorhouse: Without naming names (I trust you can understand this) OPTIS has worked with international customers for many years and have released numerous software products in support of new technologies such as digital vision (camera systems), LED light sources (in particular the use of sophisticated phosphor and other materials used in this industry), physics based simulators (for headlamp performance testing and aircraft landing scenarios), the representation of human vision (a unique CAD model of the human eye, used as a sensor for simulation results), Head Up Displays and windshield design.

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