There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial effect on the automotive industry, as well as on most other industries that develop and manufacture products. But it’s also forced companies like Ford to find new and innovative ways to continue moving forward with product development. Aside from finishing up the Mustang Mach-E’s development from home, designers and engineers have also been working on a brand new Ford race car, and they’ve done it entirely through the use of virtual reality.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, Ford designers collaborated on new vehicles in a virtual design studio. Using VR headsets, they worked alongside each other in a virtual world to review models of in-development vehicles generated by computer aided-design, since clay modeling wasn’t possible. The team also worked on early sketches of the ultimate virtual Ford race car designed for the Team Fordzilla P1 Project.
That project was a massive collaboration between the captains of Ford’s five Fordzilla esports teams from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the U.K. The teams utilized input from eight polls, which received more than 220,000 votes to help shape the design of the new Ford race car. The design is scheduled for completion in mid-June.
“Collaboration is integral to design. We need to be able to try things, bounce ideas around, and get feedback from others. Virtual reality enables us to do just that while staying at home, but we never imagined we would employ it the way we have and that it would make us see vehicle design in a new way,” said Amko Leenarts, director, Design, Ford of Europe.
Several key members of Ford’s global design leadership team presented a special demonstration of this virtual design studio during a special livestream event hosted by Car Design News, during which they answered questions, discussed how COVID-19 might influence the future of design, and conducted the first review of the Team Fordzilla P1 Project.
Even with vehicle production back up and running, Ford admits that virtual reality will still play a big role in vehicle development and design moving forward, particularly in global collaborations and to complement the clay modeling process. So perhaps something productive did come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, after all.