PARIS -- Citroens new C3 Picasso small minivan is the first model developed from start to finish in the companys so-called virtual reality cave.
Experts say carmakers are increasingly using three-dimensional design systems like the cave to save time and money throughout the product development and pre-production processes.
It is very hard to put an exact amount on the cost savings, but caves are definitely broadening the experimentation stage and allowing for a much wider number of design proposals to be created in a shorter period of time, design strategy consultant Sam Livingstone said. They also enable a variety of different detail design alternatives, materials and colors to be realized literally at the touch of a button during design critiques.
PSAs virtual reality center opened in late-2004, just as work was starting on the C3 Picasso project.
Having access to a cave allowed designers and engineers to test their ideas on life-sized, 3-D versions of the car without producing expensive physical models.
For example, project managers tried 14 different instrument panels in the cave before settling on the version put into a physical model.
PSA Vehicle Conception Manager Didier Lecoeur said the simulations look just like they would in the real world.
And the time difference for making changes is simply incomparable, Lecoeur told Automotive News Europe.
What used to be measured in weeks is now a question of hours, and as everyone knows, time is money.
Lecoeur declined to say exactly how much money PSA saves by using the cave, compared with the old way of designing a car. However, systematic use of virtual reality simulations is expected to reduce the average number of physical models built during new car projects from six to eight to just one or two from now on, said Olivier Petit, who headed the C3 Picasso vehicle architecture engineering team.
The small virtual reality center is an increasingly important zone inside parent PSA/Peugeot-Citroens high-security design headquarters outside Paris, where digital design is now the norm.
In the C3 Picasso project, code-named A-58, the cave played a key role in plans to design a small minivan on the platform used by Peugeots top-selling small 207 hatchback.