One of the keys to achieving success in the competitive automotive industry is embracing new technologies. Over the last several decades, the automotive industry has evolved as a result of keyless ignitions, hybrid and electric engines, collision avoidance systems, and other innovative technologies. But another technology has recently taken the automotive industry by storm: virtual reality.
Virtual reality is used to transport users to a simulated environment, where they are free to explore and interact with their virtual surroundings. Many of the top automotive manufacturers in the world are using virtual reality technology to remain competitive. How is VR used in the auto industry? Here’s a look at how five of the leading auto manufacturers are using virtual reality technology:
Ford’s facilities were temporarily closed last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the company’s executives did not want this temporary shutdown to impact the vehicle development process. To avoid this problem, Ford employees began to use virtual reality technology to design new vehicles in a virtual design studio.
Designers wear virtual reality headsets and use handheld controllers to draw, rotate, and resize three-dimensional digital models . The entire design team can visit the virtual design studio to inspect, evaluate, and provide feedback on digital designs. This allowed the design team to continue to work on the development of new vehicles while Ford facilities were temporarily closed.
Being able to collaborate remotely isn’t the only benefit of using virtual reality to design new vehicles. Building digital models with virtual reality eliminates the need to create expensive, time-consuming clay prototypes.
It also makes it easier for designers to edit designs based on feedback from their peers. Instead of building a new prototype after every round of edits, the designers can now visit the virtual design studio to modify the digital model in a matter of minutes. This helps Ford speed up the process of designing new vehicles. In fact, Ford reports that using virtual reality technology can reduce design time from weeks to hours.
Because of these benefits, Ford decided to continue using virtual reality to design new vehicles even after the company’s facilities had reopened.
In 2018, Volkswagen became one of the first automotive manufacturers to use virtual reality technology for employee training purposes. The company revealed that it would provide virtual reality training to over 10,000 employees. The training courses covered a wide range of topics, including product assembly, new hire training, and even customer service.
This technology allowed Volkswagen employees to train at their own pace to ensure they understood the material. It also made it possible for Volkswagen to train large groups of employees remotely. Plus, Volkswagen can continue to update its training program by uploading new content to the virtual reality system.
If Volkswagen plans on opening new production facilities, the company could now use virtual reality technology to fully train employees before the facility even opens. This way, employees would be ready to begin work right away.
Virtual reality training is especially beneficial for assembly line workers. Making a mistake on the assembly line can be costly and dangerous. But thanks to virtual reality technology, assembly line workers can train in a virtual environment where they can safely learn from their mistakes. This could create a safer working environment and reduce the cost of employee errors.
Toyota has used virtual reality technology in several different ways. Several years ago, Toyota revealed its TeenDrive365 driving simulator at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. This driving simulator is designed to help teenage drivers understand the dangers of distracted driving.
To use it, teen drivers must put on an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. Putting on this headset will immediately transport the driver to a simulated environment where they are behind the wheel of a Toyota driving down a busy street.
As they drive down the virtual street, they will encounter various types of distractions such as loud noises, talkative passengers, and text messages on their virtual smartphone. This will test the driver’s ability to tune out distractions they may face when they are behind the wheel in the real world.
Toyota is also in the process of developing a virtual reality navigation system specifically for self-driving vehicles. The company filed a patent for a system that would use virtual reality to show drivers the route that their self-driving vehicle intended on taking. This would give drivers of autonomous vehicles the opportunity to adjust their route if necessary.
Fiat Chrysler is another automotive manufacturer that has benefited from using virtual reality technology.
The company’s engineering and manufacturing teams use virtual reality technology to design virtual layouts of new production facilities. Similar to Ford’s virtual design process, Fiat Chrysler’s virtual design process allows employees from around the world to collaborate on these projects.
Employees can use virtual reality headsets and handheld controllers to visit the virtual design studio, see the layout, provide feedback, or change the design by moving equipment or other structures around. It only takes a few minutes to make changes to the design, so the teams can work together to quickly finalize new layouts.
Designing a virtual layout helps Fiat Chrysler’s engineering and manufacturing teams identify and address potential issues ahead of time. It also helps the engineering and manufacturing teams manipulate the layout of a facility to ensure it is designed for maximum efficiency. Using virtual reality to finalize production facility layouts has allowed Fiat Chrysler to streamline the design process, reduce costs, and improve the quality and safety of the manufacturing process.
Audi has found several exciting ways to use virtual reality technology. In 2017, Audi began using virtual reality to enhance the customer consultation experience in dealerships. Audi customers could customize a vehicle and then put on a virtual reality headset to explore a three-dimensional, realistic model of the vehicle in a simulated environment. This virtual reality experience allowed customers to visualize what their custom vehicle would look like before making a purchase decision.
Audi has also used virtual reality technology to enhance the in-car experience for passengers. The company introduced the Holoride, which is an in-car virtual reality experience, at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2019.
To enjoy Holoride, passengers must wear a virtual reality headset. The headset will transport them to a simulated environment where they can play games and pass the time until they reach their final destination. The movement in the simulated world is in sync with the movement of the vehicle. For example, if the car turns left, the passenger will also turn left in their simulated environment. Syncing these movements makes the experience more entertaining and realistic. Audi’s research also shows that the synchronization reduces motion sickness.
This is one of the first times that virtual reality has been used to entertain the passengers of a vehicle. Using virtual reality in this manner could drastically change the in-car experience for all passengers.
The Future of Virtual Reality in the Automotive Industry
These aren’t the only ways in which virtual reality technology is used in the automotive industry. Automotive manufacturers and dealers also use this virtual reality to support virtual automotive showrooms and virtual test drives. This allows automotive companies to cater to consumers who want to shop for a vehicle from the comfort of their own home.
There’s no telling how virtual reality will be used by auto manufacturers in the future, but it’s safe to say that this technology could potentially disrupt the industry.