Driving the Undriven: Ford’s CAVE Environment and Programmable Vehicle Model

driving the undriven fords cave environment and programmable vehicle model ford  s automated virtual

This article is part of our continuing series, Detroit Goes Digital, that goes behind the scenes in Ford’s advanced virtual reality design labs.

Sketching a luxurious car interior that looks good on a screen is the easy part. But making sure actual human occupants will like it from the inside – that’s a much tougher task. How do you know whether the C pillars obscure the view out the back? Whether the radio is too far from the driver? Whether the cup holders are too low?

Drop a real person into a virtual car. Ford’s Cave Automated Virtual Environment – or CAVE – allows designers to do just that. Essentially, it’s a three-sided room with projectors throwing giant images on every wall and a car seat mounted like a throne in the middle. Don a pair of 3D glasses with motion-sensing trackers on them, and all three walls melt into glorious 3D automotive interior.

Although you can’t reach out and touch anything, a hyper-realistic computer rendering affords an excellent sense of sitting in a car that doesn’t exist anywhere but on a hard drive just yet. You can swoop your head down and inspect the stitching in the leather, turn around to see if the rear headrests block your view out the back, and even look in a virtual rear-view mirror to see if it affords the proper view.

A few steps away in the same lab, things get even more realistic with the Programmable Vehicle Model, which folds in physical parts of the vehicle into the experience – a working steering wheel, brake and gas pedals, shifter, and doors, just to name a few. To make the virtual world mesh with this physical counterparts, a driver dons a VR helmet with separate displays for the right and left eye, which generate a convincing stereoscopic effect. Although it blinds you to the environment around you, motion tracking sensors on the helmet and a pair of special gloves ensure that your motions within the cab coordinate exactly with the VR view. Set your hand on the wheel, and a virtual hand touches the wheel. Move your head two inches from the dash, and the radio looms enormous in your view. Even with no view of the world around you, you’re able to reach for and interact with the world around you with confidence. And get a “feel” for sitting in it closer to anything short of a real concept mockup.

Follow the links below to check out our other articles on Ford’s new technology and find out how the age of digital design is changing the hunk of steel and rubber in your driveway for the better.


The hottest of all Mini hatches is coming with a Batman-approved design

The Mini John Cooper Works GP concept first seen at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show will go into production in 2020, Mini has confirmed. The John Cooper Works GP is the ultimate performance version of the Mini Cooper.
Virtual Reality

Getting into VR is spendy. Which headset is truly worth your hard-earned cash?

Virtual reality has finally gone mainstream, but how do you find the best VR headset for you? Check out a few of our favorites, whether you want the best of the best or a budget alternative for your mobile device.

Take to the virtual skies with these free flight simulators

You don't have to spend the entirety of your paycheck to become a virtual ace, at least when it comes to flight simulation. Our list of the best free flight simulators will let you unleash your inner Maverick.

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Virtual Reality

Think virtual reality is just for games? These awesome apps will change your mind

Virtual reality isn't all about gaming. Swim with turtles, paint in 3D, and immerse yourself in some unique experiences the platform has to offer with our curated list of the best VR apps.

Report: Amazon and General Motors may invest in electric pickup company Rivian

General Motors and Amazon may invest between $1 billion to $2 billion for minority stakes in U.S. startup Rivian, an all-electric truck company, Reuters reports. Rivian introduced the R1T pickup at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto show.

Ford F-150 recall: Fault could cause vehicle to downshift into first gear

Ford is recalling 1.48 million F-150 vehicles over a potential fault that could cause it to suddenly downshift into first gear. The automaker said it's currently aware of five accidents related to the issue.

Volkswagen’s hot-rodded T-Roc R is ready to shred its tires to confetti

Volkswagen released a teaser sketch to preview a hot-rodded SUV named T-Roc R. Insiders suggest it will be closely related to the mighty Golf R, meaning it will pack a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at about 300…

Honda’s Urban EV is shaping up to be a high-tech, high-style electric city car

Honda will travel to the 2019 Geneva Auto Show to unveil a close-to-production prototype that previews an adorable, city-friendly electric car. The Urban EV will offer about 155 miles of range, and its interior is a tech lover's dream come…

Audi’s Geneva-bound Q4 E-Tron concept will give us a glimpse of the future

Audi has released a trio of teaser sketches to preview the Q4 E-Tron concept. Scheduled to make its debut at the 2019 Geneva Auto Show, the design study takes the form of an electric SUV with a muscular design and a tech-filled interior.

Tesla’s Dog Mode lets good Samaritans know that Fido’s A-OK

Tesla's latest over-the-air software update adds two features called Sentry Mode and Dog Mode. Sentry Mode records footage and alerts the owner if someone breaks in, while Dog Mode runs the A/C so owners can safely keep their dogs in their…

Rock out in the carpool lane with Singing Machine’s Carpool Karaoke microphone

Carpool Karaoke fans can count down the days till summer. That's when Singing Machine's Carpool Karaoke microphone will be available. Connect the Carpool Karaoke Mic to your car radio to make your next road trip a mobile karaoke party.

Bentley Bentayga Speed surpasses Lamborghini Urus as world’s fastest SUV

The Bentley Bentayga Speed has wrested the title of world's fastest SUV from its cousin, the Lamborghini Urus. But the Bentley is just 1 mph faster than the Lamborghini. It requires 626 horsepower to achieve that top speed.
Emerging Tech

With CabinSense, cars will soon know who’s riding in them and respond accordingly

What if your car could know who's riding in it and customize the entertainment and safety options accordingly? That’s what's promised by the new CabinSense in-car Occupancy Monitoring System.