25 October 2010

Virtual reality has completely transformed how we design and engineer new vehicles today, writes Andy Richardson, Manager of the Jaguar Land Rover Simulation Group in the UK.

We generate a 3D model of every part of the car so that we can visualize, even look inside, every part of the vehicle to see how these fit together. These models also allow us to simulate the performance of the components, systems and the whole vehicle e.g. modeling the combustion process inside the cylinder block, to maximize the efficiency of the engine.

Jaguar Land Rover has been using virtual design and simulation for many years, but since 2008, our designers and engineers have been quietly developing new vehicles in three‑dimensional virtual reality at Jaguar Land Rover’s state‑of‑the‑art Virtual Reality Centre at our Gaydon Design and Engineering Complex. This enables us to visualize the vehicle in full.

Using eight of the latest generation Sony 4K digital cinema projectors, which deliver four times the resolution of Ultra HD TV, and driven by 22 of Sun Microsystems’ most powerful PC computers, the Centre is considered to be the most advanced Virtual Reality facility in the automotive industry.

With the Center now delivering significant results, Virtual Reality work has helped speed‑up the development time of the all‑new Jaguar XJ and next year’s Range Rover Evoque, we thought the time was right to tell the world a little of what we’ve been achieving.

So at the British Science Festival in Birmingham, England recently, I gave fellow scientists and engineers an overview of some of our successes and innovations, and talked about our dreams for the future.


It’s a fact that Virtual Reality’s contribution to the vehicle creation process has already been revolutionary and is growing all the time. It exceeds even our most inventive ideas for it and the next steps are perhaps even more exciting.

Computing power and new applications, such as augmented reality, (e.g. the over‑laid lines in a football game or swim meet on TV), are gaining ground so quickly that we can now see a day when an entire car could be engineered ‘virtually’.

Already our work in Virtual Reality has begun a revolution in how Jaguar Land Rover designs its vehicles. The computer simulations allow our engineers to visualize full‑size 3D models of components, and even an entire vehicle, long before physical parts are available.

This allows designers to reduce the number of costly and time‑consuming design ‘bucks’, or models, they need to build. If a designer created a proposal for a new instrument panel, previously he’d have to build it in clay. Now he can project his design into the Virtual Reality ‘cave’ and see it as if it’s real.

The power and flexibility of the system is such that it is not just restricted to vehicles. We’ve used Virtual Reality to help with the design of the factories we use to assemble the vehicles. Virtual Reality helped us to visualize the vehicle as it passes through every stage of the manufacturing process to optimize the tools, facilities and processes to ensure each vehicle can be made just as engineering intended.

As for the future of Virtual Reality in new car development, I think it’s only limited by what our minds can imagine.