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Could cars of the future be designed in the metaverse?

The future is here! NVIDIA says it has the tech to test and develop cars in a fully digital metaverse…

Published: 17 Nov 2022

NVIDIA - the software and hardware firm providing the processing power on the new Volvo EX90 SUV - says it has the technology to test and develop cars in the entirely digital world that is the metaverse. The dystopian future we all feared is here early! Run!

Just kidding. But NVIDIA isn’t, and so at the launch of the EX90 in Stockholm last week TG sat down with Danny Shapiro, its vice president of automotive, to hear (in the simplest terms possible) how this new digital tech could be applied to cars of the future.

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First question: what exactly is the metaverse? “Think of it as 3D meets Google Docs,” says Shapiro, who then asks us to imagine the scores of designers working on every tiny detail of the EX90 as an example. “So everyone can basically tap into the same virtual 3D world, and if you then make changes to the [steering] wheel, they automatically appear on that 3D model.

“You’re in different places of the world, you might be using different applications. But then you have a portal into the shared metaverse space.”

He notes NVIDIA also makes something called the ‘omniverse’, which pools all manner of programmes like Photoshop and CAD tools into one place.

“But the cool thing is, that data exists, so the manufacturing team can work on this and figure out ‘Well, how do we build it?’ And then the factory people can look at this and design the factory that this car goes into. And the marketing department can create a virtual showroom and let consumers choose colours, or seat materials, or whatever.

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“That can happen in this virtual space. It’s what we call a digital twin. It’s an exact digital replica of the physical car that ultimately will drive on the road.”

Head sore yet? Stick with us, it gets way cooler. Another of NVIDIA’s creations is its ‘DRIVE Sim’, on which it can test autonomous and ADAS features from the comfort of a computer simulation. 

“If we need to test ‘Is this car going to detect a child running in front of the car in the middle of the night?’ Well, we’re not going to take a child at night and put them in front of the car! But using this 3D-simulated digital twin, we can recreate situations that are too dangerous to test in the real world and generate the sensor data coming into the car.

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“The computer doesn’t know it’s not in a car driving. It thinks it’s on the road, it’s getting signals saying ‘There’s the lanes, there’s other cars, there’s the street lights…’  We can test millions and millions of scenarios in different weather, at different times of the day, and ensure that the vehicle’s safe for going on the road.”

So in summary… it’s like The Matrix, but for cars? “You know, a little bit! It’s true,” Shapiro agrees. “That’s how people are going to relate to it, it starts to resemble a video game. That’s our heritage.”

Who else is wondering if GTA6 might have more real-world relevance than expected when it’s released?

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