The VR goggles you wear to shoot alien ships is helping Magna design car parts

2020 Toyota Supra

Canadian automotive supplier Magna has been developing components for cars since the days when downdraft carburetors were considered cutting-edge. It’s not old-school, though. As it looks towards the future, the company has started integrating virtual reality (VR) technology into its research and development department to give engineers a more realistic vision of what they’re building, and to bring continents closer to each other.

Instead of making models using clay, engineers can create a part, an entire interior, or a complete powertrain using software and experience it first-hand by putting on the same VR goggles you use to play Firewall Zero Hour on PSVR. Adding this tech to the development process saves a tremendous amount of time and money. Magna explained VR can show how a part absorbs energy during an accident, for example. Without it, getting that data would have required making a prototype and stuffing it into a wall, which is expensive, or running computer simulations, which are less realistic because they’re displayed on a screen.

Engineers whose job is to develop interior parts use VR to find out how a specific component fits into the bigger picture. Seeing the part before it enters the prototype stage is a helpful way to make sure it’s user-friendly and attractive. Magna builds cars, too; it notably manufactures the Toyota Supra, the BMW Z4, and the Mercedes-Benz G-Class in Graz, Austria. Each car requires its own unique set of tooling, and taking a stroll through a virtual representation of its factory helps it plan the assembly line expansion when it adds a new model.

The benefits of VR extend beyond Magna’s Austrian branch. The technology lets engineers to work together on a project even if they’re on different continents. “Because the new technology allows multiple people to view the same virtual 3D models at once, an engineer in China can see what changes and remarks an engineer in [Austria] is making in real time,” Magna explained in a statement.

Magna isn’t the only company that has integrated VR into its development process. When Digital Trends visited Ducati’s design studio, we learned the Italian motorcycle manufacturer sometimes puts two designs in a virtual reality room to compare them without making prototypes.

Emerging Tech

What would it take to build a Matrix-level simulation of reality?

What would it take, technologically speaking, to build a real version of the Matrix? We definitely don't have the technical abilities to do that now, but we're rapidly approaching the point that we will. In this article, MIT computer…
Product Review

Oculus Quest is the affordable VR rig we’ve been waiting for

Oculus announced that its Project Santa Cruz virtual reality headset will ship next year as the Oculus Quest, and we got to try out several new game titles on the Quest. Find out our impressions of VR without wires.

Bosch sensors used in Skywalker’s lightsaber will keep flying taxis in the air

Bosch wants to help companies make flying taxis a reality. Aviation technology is too big and too expensive to power a flying taxi, so the German firm is developing a universal control unit using smaller, cheaper sensors already used in…

GM thinks up new electronic brain for its cars, allowing over-the-air updates

General Motors is launching a new electrical architecture to support more tech features in its cars. The system debuts on the 2020 Cadillac CT5, and will roll out to most other GM models by 2023.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 pickup lets you see through trailers — sort of

The 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 pickup truck gets a handful of updates for the new model year, including a transparent trailer camera system and a big boost in maximum towing capacity.

Insiders claim the Tesla Model S nearly became the long-rumored Apple car

Apple offered to buy Tesla in 2013, according to an analyst who spoke to people familiar with the talks. Apple made Tesla a great offer, but the deal fell through when Elon Musk refused to step away from the company he helped found.
Product Review

Hyundai’s luxurious Tucson suffocates you with more – in a good way

The refreshed 2019 Hyundai Tucson may be one of the more affordable compact SUVs on the market, but there are more safety features than before as standard, as well as a hint of luxury.

Parents will never miss soccer practice with BMW’s new 523-horsepower SUVs

BMW is launching M Performance versions of its biggest SUVs, the X5 and X7. While not full-on M models, they do pack 523-horsepower twin-turbo V8 engines, allowing both SUVs to sprint from zero to 60 mph in under five seconds.

Don’t trust Tesla’s new autonomous lane-changing feature, Consumer Reports warns

Consumer Reports warns that last month's Autopilot updates that enabled automatic lane changing may put you at risk of a ticket or accident. Reaction times lagged what a human could do, testers say.

Texas awaits one signature to put a statewide stop to red light cameras

When Texas Governor Greg Abbott signs state House Bill 1631 into law, he will bring a halt to red light cameras in the state. The central issue in the bill's passage is the presumption of guilt of the registered owner of the car.

EV owners may still need to stop at a Chevron station, but not to buy gasoline

EVgo, the operator of a sizable network of electric car charging stations, has partnered with Chevron. Five Chevron stations located in California will install EVgo chargers that electric car owners can pay to use.

Mercedes-Benz GLE SUV tries to balance power and efficiency with mild-hybrid V8

The redesigned Mercedes-Benz GLE will get a V8 mild-hybrid powertrain when it launches in the United States later in 2019. The 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 makes 483 hp on its own, but can also get a 21 hp electric boost.

Audi TT will get the ax to make way for electric cars — and the R8 may be next

Once a design leader, the Audi TT will meet its demise to make room in Audi's lineup for more electric cars. Audi executives confirmed plans to kill off the TT at the automaker's annual shareholder meeting.

Honda recalls 119,000 2019 CR-V crossovers over fears of airbag deployment

A manufacturing defect in select 2019 Honda CR-V crossovers could cause the airbag to malfunction and unexpectedly deploy, leading the automaker to recall some 137,000 vehicles worldwide, 118,598 of them in the U.S.