The automotive industry is known for its willingness to implement the use of new technologies. Throughout its history, the industry has evolved as a result of new technological developments starting with the internal combustion engine and more recently, the electric vehicle.
One technology that is becoming increasingly popular within the automotive industry today is virtual reality. This technology can be used to transport users to a simulated environment. Because it is a fully immersive experience, users can even interact with and explore their virtual environment.
Although it is often associated with gaming, virtual reality technology has recently taken the automotive industry by storm. How is it used? Here are some of the top virtual trends in the automotive industry:
Research shows that automotive consumers are interested in completing as much of the car buying process as possible online rather than in a dealership. This includes the process of researching and exploring vehicles. In fact, Google reports that two-thirds of automotive consumers are comfortable with moving this step of the car buying process online.
To meet this demand, many automotive companies now allow consumers to use their smartphone or computer to explore vehicles in a virtual showroom. Inside a virtual showroom, consumers can explore virtual three-dimensional models of various types of vehicles. They can walk around the vehicle, rotate it to view it from different angles, and open the door to explore the interior. They can even see what the vehicle looks like in different colors.
Automotive consumers use the virtual showroom experience to learn more about different vehicles, compare their options, and decide which vehicle is right for them. Making this decision at home allows them to save time at the dealership, which may improve their shopping experience.
In other words, automotive consumers can now get the showroom experience without ever stepping foot inside an actual showroom, and it’s all thanks to virtual reality technology.
Virtual Test Drives
About two-thirds of automotive consumers consider the test drive an important step in the car buying process. Many of these consumers worry that if the car buying process shifts online, they won’t be able to test drive different vehicles before deciding which one they want to purchase. However, this won’t be a problem due to the power of virtual reality technology.
A growing number of auto manufacturers and dealers are offering consumers the opportunity to take virtual test drives of different vehicles. Automotive consumers don’t need a virtual reality headset to experience a virtual test drive. Consumers can take a test drive with just a smartphone or computer, which makes this feature accessible to everyone.
Taking a virtual test drive gives consumers the chance to see what it’s like to sit behind the wheel of a vehicle. They can take it on the virtual road to see how it drives and even look around to explore the interior while the car is in motion.
This option allows consumers to conduct more extensive research about their options online, so they can reduce the amount of time they spend at the dealership once they are ready to make a purchase.
Virtual Vehicle Prototypes
In the past, automotive engineers had to construct bulky, expensive physical prototypes when designing new vehicles. Every time a change was made to the design, they were required to build a new prototype. This process is not only time-consuming, but it’s also expensive.
Now, automotive manufacturers can save time and money on the design process by using virtual reality technology. Instead of spending weeks creating a physical prototype, engineers can build a virtual model of a new design in a matter of hours. If a change is requested, they can quickly adjust the virtual model rather than build a new prototype from scratch. This reduces the time it takes to finalize new designs so manufacturers can quickly get new vehicles into production.
Designing with virtual reality also makes it easier for engineers to collaborate. The entire engineering team, regardless of where they are located, can meet in the virtual environment to examine the design and provide feedback. This means engineers located all around the world can come together to work on a virtual model.
The automotive industry has designed vehicles with radios, CD players, and infotainment systems in an effort to keep passengers entertained. But now, some automotive companies are starting to explore the possibility of using virtual reality to provide in-car entertainment to passengers.
In 2019, Audi introduced Holoride, an in-car virtual reality experience, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Passengers can use Holoride to access a wide range of fun games powered by virtual reality technology.
Holoride uses data from the vehicle to sync what happens in the game to what is happening in the real world. For example, if the car begins to accelerate, the user will start to move faster through the simulated environment. If the car turns, the user will turn in the same direction within the virtual world. This “motion-synchronized journey” makes the games more enjoyable and prevents the user from experiencing motion sickness.
If this trend catches on, it could completely transform the driving experience for passengers.
Another trend in the automotive industry is using virtual reality technology to train new employees. In the past, automotive engineers received basic training before putting their skills to the test under the supervision of experts.
It’s common for engineers to make mistakes during this stage of training since they are still learning what to do. But every mistake could potentially damage expensive vehicle parts or heavy-duty machinery. These costly mistakes add up over time and cost manufacturers a significant amount of money.
To avoid this problem, many manufacturers now train their engineers with virtual reality. This allows the engineers to get hands-on experience in a simulated environment. The engineers may still make mistakes, but they will occur in a simulated environment where they won’t cause damage.
In addition to saving manufacturers money, virtual training also creates a safer work environment. Some of the mistakes made by engineers in training could put others in harm’s way. But no one is at risk of getting hurt in a simulated environment, so engineers can continue to freely practice until they are ready to put their skills to the test in the real world.
Autonomous Vehicle Safety Testing
A number of automotive manufacturers and tech companies are currently building self-driving, or autonomous vehicles. To improve the safety of these vehicles, many companies are turning to virtual reality technology.
An autonomous car is programmed with algorithms that are designed to help the vehicle safely handle any situation it encounters on the road. But anything could happen on the road, so it’s impossible to predefine every situation a vehicle could encounter. The best way to “teach” an autonomous vehicle what it should do in certain situations is to let it drive around, encounter as many scenarios as possible, and learn from its experience. Letting an autonomous vehicle essentially learn from its mistakes on the road is dangerous, which is why manufacturers are using virtual reality technology to train these vehicles instead.
An autonomous vehicle can be connected to virtual reality software to experience countless traffic scenarios in a simulated environment. After each scenario, the vehicle can analyze its experience to improve its understanding of how to handle that specific situation. This software could significantly improve the safety of autonomous vehicles.
Virtual Auto Shows
Auto shows were cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, automotive manufacturers still wanted the opportunity to connect with consumers despite the COVID-19 restrictions. To solve this problem, many of them decided to host virtual auto shows instead of in-person events.
Hosting a virtual auto show is typically far less expensive for auto manufacturers, which is why this trend will most likely stick around even after the pandemic is over. A virtual auto show also helps automotive manufacturers to broaden their audience by connecting to consumers across the world who would not have been able to attend an in-person event.
Because of these benefits, experts believe that automotive manufacturers will continue to host virtual auto shows to introduce new vehicles, build relationships with consumers, and generate excitement in the years ahead.
Manufacturing Facility Design
Several automotive manufacturers, including Jaguar Land Rover, use virtual reality technology to improve the efficiency of their manufacturing facility’s design.
To do this, automotive companies design the initial layout of their manufacturing facility in a virtual environment. Then, they run a simulation of the manufacturing process to see how efficiently the vehicle moves through each stage of production within the facility.
Being able to visualize this process in a simulated environment allows automotive companies to identify and address issues before the design is finalized. This way, they can optimize the tools, equipment, and processes to increase the efficiency and safety of their facility.
Just like the steam engine and electric vehicle, virtual reality technology has the power to completely disrupt the automotive industry. By using this technology, automotive manufacturers can improve the driving experience, save money, create a safer work environment, and meet the demands of automotive consumers.