What Does Volvo's Gaming Engine Partnership Mean for the Future of In-Car Graphics?

To control its infotainment destiny, Volvo bets big on Unreal Engine.

Volvo car showing unreal engine graphicsVolvo

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Originally used to serve up navigation and media to the driver, infotainment systems in new vehicles are now where a large portion of everything from HVAC controls to important vehicle information resides as designers reduce physical buttons in the cabin.

Automakers and their suppliers are in a race to provide more impressive graphics and interfaces to customers. Volvo is looking to gain an edge with consumers by partnering with game developer Epic to use its Unreal Engine in future vehicles. The computer graphics engine is used to develop video games, create effects in film and television, create and render animation, and is used in simulations.

The Unreal Engine is already in use by GM in the Hummer EV and the Cadillac Lyriq EV. In addition to impressive splash screens, the gaming engine can render photorealistic 3D graphics in real-time with stunning results.

How Will Volvo Use Unreal Graphics’ Engine?

Volvo intends to use the Unreal Engine to improve what it calls its human-machine interface or HMI to bring “photorealistic visualization” to its next-generation EVs.

The system won’t just offer better entertainment options but more vivid control menus. One focus of this upgrade is safety. Volvo has marketed hard to make its name synonymous with safety. By using an advanced HMI, Volvo hopes to provide owners more information about what is happening inside and outside the vehicle.

"To offer our customers the best possible user experience and contribute to a safe and personal drive, we need rich, immersive, and responsive visualization inside our cars," Henrik Green, Chief Product Officer at Volvo stated in a press release.

Having a powerful HMI that can alert drivers of potential issues quickly and in ways that are easy to understand is one of the more important and potentially life-saving benefits of using a gaming engine in a vehicle’s interface.

Why are Volvo and Unreal Working Together?

The announcement is part of a larger goal to bring software development in-house at Volvo. Unreal Engine has a huge development community and, according to Volvo, its HMI development process will speed up because designers and developers can work together with the same tool.

For Epic, moving into the automotive world is a no-brainer. It’s an additional revenue stream from a market that’s expanding its use of large screens with high-resolution graphics.

Gaming Engines and the Future of the Car Industry

This is important as automakers determine how their infotainment systems will be used for entertainment in the future. Tesla has already added console-quality games to its vehicles and has boasted that its in-car system is as powerful as a Playstation 5. The line between cars as transportation and cars as entertainment spaces will only continue to blur into the future.

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Roberto Baldwin
Roberto Baldwin is an automotive and technology reporter based in Northern California. In addition to traditional car coverage, he has focused on the emergence of electric vehicles and driver assistance features in vehicles and the eventual launch of autonomous vehicles. Over the past seven years he’s sat in more autonomous test vehicles than he can remember but still reminds the average driver to keep their eyes on the road. He currently owns a Subaru BRZ, Hyundai Kona Electric, and a Vespa GTS 250.