Want to see where Ford fine-tunes the tech that goes into its latest cars? This is it. The Ford Virttex car simulator is used not, as you might expect, to trial run new motors but rather to test driver reactions to the technology inside them. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Ford Motor Company’s inner sanctum.
Located in a nondescript building at the heart of Detroit, the Ford Virttex simulator spans several floors, accessed by a retracting bridge, and looking more like a flight simulator than a driving emulation machine. Inside, however, there’s a real car. Its engine and most of the electrics have been removed, along with the back seats. What’s left is a shell that can be fitted with any technology Ford is currently working on.
In the past it’s been used to fine-tune the dashboard displays of Ford’s first hybrid cars. It’s conducted the world’s longest night-time driving simulations, at more than three hours in a single stretch, and resulted in smart advance warning systems that’re included within Ford’s cars today.
The Virttex is Ford’s fourth generation simulator, building on a bank of research that began in the 80s. When we took a peep inside, we saw Ford evaluating a display mounted near the gearstick, not to test its viability as in-car tech, but to see how drivers react to texts or phone calls coming in to a mobile phone they’ve placed there. Virttex is as much about measuring drivers as it is evaluating new technology.
Dr Mike Blommer, the man in charge of Virttex, told us in the future he expects car simulators to evolve to use glasses-free 3D technology too, making road simulations even more realistic. At $7 million for the current set-up though, Ford’s still learning plenty in 2D. Check out the video above to see Virttex in action.