December 11, 2019
Unreal Engine: the open automotive platform and data model of the future
Now maturing as an innovation, it’s become commonplace to find interactive tools throughout the automotive workflow, from augmented driving research to AR-based service training. We’re on the cusp of the next phase in the real-time era, where this technology will consolidate and reach its true potential. We envision a supercharged automotive production pipeline leveraging tools that are based on an open platform, which is licensed for free and provides users with direct access to the source code.
The data model of the futureToday’s automotive data model is built on the concept of centralized design data that third-party tools access to analyze and display results. With multiple tools each producing their own data, your flexibility to bring together data from different sources is limited by the inability of tools to share it.
Further compounding this restriction, the process of collaborating, experiencing, visualizing, and interacting with the data is limited by each tool’s capabilities. Ultimately, that means your ability to work effectively is determined by a mix of vendors who attempt to predict your needs. But what if you could control and manage how data works for your process and problems?
That is our vision for where the automotive pipeline goes next. One holistic open platform that covers the entire pipeline from end to end, from visualizing the initial design, through to reviewing, testing, and training in the engineering stages, and finally to creating beautiful marketing renders and photorealistic configurators. With an open-data ethos, a new world of possibilities will be established, providing an opportunity for OEMs to transform the way we work in the automotive industry. The data model of the future is to stay contained within a game engine, on a fully open platform where the features and tools that you need are already available without switching between different software packages, eliminating the necessity to redo data and meta tags all over again whenever you work on a particular use case. By replacing the process of pushing data through individual tools for tessellation, data repair, and modeling, an open-platform approach gives the freedom to break free of the restrictions of these conventional tools, offering an easier way of connecting them, and unlocking more ways of working.
There are a number of trends shaping today’s industry that mean now is the right time for a platform that truly enables an open automotive digital twin—and several considerations that must inform any approach to its development.
RelevanceFor an end-to-end automotive workflow platform to be successful, every process and tool it provides must be relevant. The most important consideration behind the decisions taken in developing functionality should be “how does this empower the user to have an impact on the product?” Features on the roadmap will be directly informed by the needs of vehicle manufacturers. The driving influence on the features selected for development will be the day-to-day tasks and projects they are working on. We believe that keeping close proximity to the community that uses these tools has to be a guiding principle.
Synthetic realitiesIn an era of synthetic realities, there is an expectation that cutting-edge visualization tools will have immersive capabilities. Similar to how virtual production is increasingly pushing innovation across the various stages of filmmaking, interactive tools have the potential to change traditional workflows in the automotive production pipeline, disrupting the industry in a positive way and fundamentally changing how content is created. The photorealistic visualizations and interactive environments that real-time rendering enables puts the technology at the heart of this paradigm.
Post-digital toolsThe automotive industry has undergone a period of change unlike anything that has been seen before. Connected, autonomous, shared and electric (CASE) vehicles, and mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) solutions have arrived and are evolving at a breakneck pace. The industry is on the brink of the post-digital era. Key players will not only need recently acquired digital tools—they’ll also need new ones. Mastering technologies that include distributed ledger technology, artificial intelligence, extended reality, and quantum computing will be key to success.
Industry 4.0Armed with a set of new AI-driven tools, a handful of key automotive partners will be the pioneers of Industry 4.0: data-led manufacturing where information from every stage of the product life cycle can be leveraged to build higher-quality, cost-efficient products at a faster pace. Game engine technology will drive the automotive digital twin to the next level, bringing together the key technologies of the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D simulation tools, and predictive analytics to provide analysis of data and monitoring of systems that solve problems before they even occur.
Digital change and adoptionThese converging technological trends mean that players in the automotive industry are at a crossroads. Sweeping digital change is set to transform traditional pipelines and workflows, making them smarter, faster, and more cost-efficient. The core functionality of real-time game engine technology means it will be a key pillar of this digital transformation.
Production proven in the world of AAA Games, Unreal Engine is built for high performance, provides photorealistic visualization, and has interactive collaboration at its heart. Artist-friendly tools such as the Blueprint visual scripting system and the Material Editor open out workflows to non-technical personnel, enabling more people to bring their skills to bear. Public access to the technology’s source code and the fact that it’s free to use mean teams can adapt the technology to their specific needs and benefit from increased ROI straight off the bat.
These innate capabilities mean Unreal Engine can play a key role as a standard data simulation and visualization platform for the automotive industry across digital transformation, extended reality, and digital collaboration. The work to build the industry's go-to automotive platform and data model is already underway. Focusing initially on collaboration, visualization, and simulation, we’re developing the tools that will replace conventional content pipelines.Initial efforts include a new HDRI workflow that provides a simpler way of lighting virtual vehicles with imagery taken from real-world environments, a Variant Manager that enables you to set up multiple different configurations of your asset and switch between them at runtime, and Pixel Streaming to online configurators that will provide a new way of delivering interactive applications.
Intrigued? Find out more about how we’re helping to drive change across the automotive industry.