BELMONT, CA—Earlier this month, Volkswagen rolled out its Type 20 concept microbus at its Engineering Center California (ECC). The vehicle features parts from the past, as well as those made with AI design software.
The ECC focuses on the connected car and autonomous driving technologies. Also in Belmont is the Innovation Center California, or ICC, which focuses on lighthouse projects, as well as research and pre-development.
The Type 20 concept vehicle takes elements from the past, like the 1962 Microbus, and combines them with experimental technologies, like biometric driver identification and holographic infotainment systems. Engineers at ECC use AI design software to maximize strength in components while minimizing weight. The vehicle also has a battery-electric vehicle drivetrain and a custom suspension, developed with Porsche, that automatically adjusts drive height.
VW partnered with Autodesk to use the generative design features in the company's Fusion 360 software. It helped designers quickly reduce wheel weight by 18 percent, and make the vehicle's mirror mounts, steering wheel and seat brackets exotic looking. The technology is currently being used by engineers at GM and NASA as well.
This generative software lets engineers input design goals and specifications as well as parameters like materials, manufacturing processes and cost. It then uses AI-based algorithms to simultaneously generate multiple design variables based on real-world manufacturing constraints and product performance requirements.
According to VW, the software creates structures that human designers could never conceive.