With crash tests becoming more and more stringent these days — but wrecking prototype cars getting no less expensive — automakers are looking to get ahead of the curve in whatever way they can. For Honda, that means advancing the way that crash tests are modeled virtually, as the company has developed new rendering software in partnership with a company called 3DXCITE that specializes in high-end, three-dimensional visual rendering.
This new software, called DeltaGen, essentially allows for Honda to take its existing virtual crash test models and present them in a much more realistic way that’s closer to real-world crash tests performed by organizations like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). All automakers already use digital modeling to engineer vehicles according to these crash test regulations, but according to Honda principal engineer Eric DeHoff, the existing crash test visualizations are difficult to explain and comprehend because of their unrealistic appearance.
“With the existing modeling, it’s hard to convince others [within Honda R&D] that the results are correct because it looks like a cartoon or video game,” DeHoff said. “The new system makes it easier to explain and view because it looks like a real car.”
3DXCITE’s DeltaGen system is able to take the existing computer-aided engineering (CAE) data from Honda, and render it in a much more realistic way that includes lighting, a surrounding environment, and more three-dimensional body panels and structures that better replicate an actual crash test. In other words, it looks like a real car. For instance, the video below shows an actual, real-life IIHS small-overlap test side-by-side with the DeltaGen simulation. Compared with the old CAE models, the realistic lighting and surfacing of the new DeltaGen simulation make it easier to analyze what is happening with individual components like the body panels, the structure, the fuel system, and other elements of the example 2014 Acura MDX that can be broken down into parts or viewed as an entire vehicle.
DeltaGen also takes the existing capability of the CAE modeling and expands its functionality. For instance, the new system now provides various in-car camera views during simulations that allow engineers to even better replicate the real-world crash tests. The new software can even operate in a full visual stereo mode that requires 3-D glasses to give an even better spatial understanding of the virtual crash testing.
Going forward, Honda is hoping that this software might help the company better prepare for industry crash standards without performing as many real-world crash tests internally. Of course, all virtual-world findings still have to be verified in the physical world, but the increased realism of 3DXCITE’s system will help reduce the disparity between crash test simulations and real crash tests. The visualization system may have a consumer marketing application as well: Honda representatives say that the 3-D models may make it easier to explain complex safety structures and technologies to consumers by providing a clearer visualization of how these systems work.
Check out the video below to see the 3DXCITE DeltaGen visualization software in action.