DETROIT -- The next time you see a TV commercial with a new car in it, don't be so sure the car is real.
It could be a virtual vehicle.
Software is giving automotive marketers new tools to create TV commercials, print ads and other promotional materials using computer-aided design data collected during the vehicle-development process.
Those data, sometimes called math data, can be used to create three-dimensional vehicles that are virtually impossible to distinguish from the real thing. If an automaker chooses, the vehicles can even appear to move - up the side of a building, for example.
Using a digital image has several benefits. It can reduce marketing costs by eliminating the need to transport, protect and photograph real vehicles in an exotic location. And it's especially helpful to auto marketers and their advertising agencies in the event that accurate prototypes, much less production vehicles, are not available for photography and advertising purposes.