Ford uses games to improve car functions

Ford recognized the diverse potential of computer games at an early stage and helped ensure that real vehicles were reproduced as faithfully as possible on console and television screens. According to the Internet Game Cars database, more Ford cars have appeared in video games than any other manufacturer. Now Ford is applying what it learned in games to its own operations. The technologies aim to simplify mobile work and enable Ford teams to work together effectively regardless of physical distance. Engineers create simulations to test how useful customers can be in finding new vehicle functionality, for example, while designers use the latest animations to create virtual prototypes.

Engineers create simulations to test how useful new technologies are for customers, while designers use animations to create virtual prototypes. Ford even developed a car in partnership with the gaming community – Image Credit: Ford

Interactive customer survey

Ford now tests the vehicle’s functionality directly with customers – interactively. In the first round, Ford engineers wanted to know whether participants preferred to hold down the automatic parking button for a brief period or press it only once. To this end, they developed an online video game in which participants perform several parking maneuvers. Of all the players, 88 percent preferred the simple push of a button, which could lead to a similar change in the Ford’s active park assist function in the future.

The computer game also showed a cow passing in front of the car. This test should show how quickly the players react and how fast the car stops. Longer reaction times may mean changing the automatic parking function, driving slower during automated maneuvers or the function can be adapted to specific preferences. With larger numbers of participants in different markets, a larger demographic range, and a wider range of potential situations, hypothetical testing leads to better and more reliable data. It enables Ford to learn more about what customers want and to integrate those preferences into vehicle development.

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Powerwalls improve teamwork

Working in different locations can be a challenge for designers, especially when they don’t have access to the vehicles or parts they are working on together. Ford has installed large-format LED displays in the company’s design studios, in both Downton, UK, and Cologne. These so-called walls enable several employees in different locations to participate in a business meeting at the same time. Additionally, Powerwalls are ideal for complex 3D data visualization.

With a height of nearly two meters and a width of five meters, Powerwalls displays vehicle details depicted on a 1:1 scale. Design teams can analyze lines, shapes, shadows and reflections in collaborative meetings, much like an eSports team plays a computer game together to achieve a common goal. The team appears in part on the Powerwall via video conferencing and virtual reality, with notes and changes to graphics that happen in real time.

Fordzilla P1 Team

In order to take a new design approach and anticipate future trends, Ford has developed a virtual arcade racing car with computer gamers. Nearly a quarter of a million esports fans took part in online surveys to determine the design of the Team Fordzilla P1 extreme race car, which can be seen at IAA Mobility in Munich from September 6 to 12. Its interior focuses on the essentials during gameplay, including speed, race position, and lap time. Ford is now looking to apply this simple approach to the development of regular vehicles, as part of the company’s human-centered approach to design that builds on the things customers want most. The power of collaboration, as seen in the P1 race car, was also used to design the Ford Puma ST Gold Edition model. Fans made nearly 275,000 votes on the color combination of items, including paint, various decals, and brake calipers. The name of the release model was also determined by voting.

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Following the success of the P1 project, the Fordzilla team is now interested in working with gamers and Ford designers to develop a new Superman. The new Supervan Vision Concept should look like a high-performance model for futuristic pickups and take advantage of new design possibilities.

Tess Larson

<p class="sign">"Tv geek. Certified beer fanatic. Extreme zombie fan. Web aficionado. Food nerd. Coffee junkie."</p>

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