We have seen Jaguar Land Rover’s virtual design facility first hand and were seriously impressed with what it could do. Standing in the ‘cave’ you can appreciate the design of a vehicle in a high quality 3D representation that you can move, or that you can move around in. It’s even possible to sit on a real – not virtual – car seat and position yourself inside the new design to check sight lines, head room etc. Engineers can come down with a design for a new part, slip the details into the computer and see if it will fit in the space designated. It allows for virtual prototypes to be ‘built’ in the computer, without the need for any actual physical vehicle to be constructed. At the time, we did ask whether JLR would be prepared to ‘rent’ out the facility. The question was treated with some disdain at the time, but it seems now that the company has announced a massive five-year programme with four leading UK universities alongside the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The extensive £10m academic research project is aimed to advance the UK’s role in developing virtual simulation technologies and was unveiled earlier this month by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, The Rt.Hon Dr Vince Cable MP. This is apparently the first stage of a 20-year programme that is aimed to put the UK ‘at the leading edge of virtual simulation’. Bob Joyce, Jaguar Land Rover Engineering Director, explained to 4×4 Magazine: “While we already utilise a wide range of sophisticated virtual engineering tools and processes to design, engineer and test our new vehicles, we are keen to enhance the future capability of virtual simulation and tailor them for automotive product development. We want to make advances in the simulated driver and passenger experience, including more realistic imagery, sounds and even smells. These projects will help us analyse increasingly complex cars at whole vehicle, system and component levels, as well as enhancing the high performance computers that industry will use in the future to mine increasing amounts of more complex data.” If they need some extra finance to fund the project, they could offer public demonstrations. It was truly fascinating to experience and is undoubtedly a major reason why JLR has been producing its recent string of market-leading vehicles over the last few years.