Volkswagen Uses Virtual Test Drives to Evaluate Driver-Assist Systems

Simulations will save time and help improve the systems, VW says.

Volkswagen

Volkswagen is using virtual test drives to evaluate an increasingly-complex array of driver-assist systems. These computer simulations lessen the need for real-world testing, saving time in the development process, VW said in a statement.

Driver-assist systems like adaptive cruise control rely heavily on software that can be tested without having to physically send a car to a test track, according to VW. Instead, a simulation can be built using whatever parameters engineers want. They can then see how the software responds to the simulated environment, and make changes as needed. This is similar to how Waymo tests its autonomous-driving tech.

Volkswagen is already testing driver-assist systems this way. The company said it has developed software that can simulate thousands of different parking lots, based on factors like traffic and layout. Navigating a parking lot is among the most complex tasks assist systems will face in the real world, VW noted.

In addition to cutting down on testing down, Volkswagen said simulations can be used to "train" driver-assist systems to perform better. VW hopes to imbue these systems with some form of artificial intelligence that can "learn" from the simulations just as a human driver would learn from real-world experiences. Artificial intelligence is a hot topic in the auto industry right now, but it's still unclear if the technology will live up to the hype.

Virtual test drives are just one aspect of the digital element Volkswagen plans to add to the development process. The automaker said engineers are now working with "virtual concept cars," which are complete digital vehicle models. These models can be used for everything from determining exterior and interior styling to laying out instruments and infotainment systems, VW claims, which saves money on constructing physical models and prototypes.

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