The automotive sector accounts for the largest investments in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies. The global market for automotive AR & VR solutions is expected to reach about $673 billion USD by 2025 according to Statista, with an astonishing CAGR of 175.7 percent from 2018 to 2025. Because of the current pace of virtual reality development, these technologies are as affordable as never before and present great potential for adoption in the automotive industry. Let’s see how AR and VR have found their use in this sector.
AR HUD is an advanced driver assistance system projecting real-time information to help a driver stay more focused. This data is displayed on the windshield and usually consists of warning signals, speed, engine status, navigation and more. Although many car manufacturers have already implemented this technology, the full potential of AR HUD is yet to be unleashed. Earlier this year, Hyundai, in cooperation with WayRay, unveiled the world’s first Holographic AR Navigation System, which looks like something straight out of a sci-fi movie.
The biggest advantage of this technology is that the stereoscopic image can adjust to the driver’s viewing angle. Navigational information, guidance hints, and alerts can now be perceived by drivers as a part of the road. This will most likely have a direct impact on safety because drivers won’t be distracted by other sources of information from phones or built-in screens.
Opening a car dealership is a necessary but rather costly move. The cumulative cost of furniture, rent, demo cars, inventory, and salaries makes it hardly a viable venture, especially for smaller car manufacturers. However, VR technologies allow car retailers to reduce the showroom size, cut costs, and enhance customer experience all at the same time.
When in a VR showroom, customers can sit in a chair that imitates a real car seat and get a real-time experience of driving this particular car. Moreover, a customer can change the car’s configuration or colour in a matter of seconds by themselves. Audi has already deployed more than 1 000 VR showrooms and planning to expand.
Some auto dealers argue, however, that VR showrooms are not as effective as conventional ones if employed as standalone units. Customers still want to touch and feel the real cars to make their purchase decision. Mayank Pareek of Tata Motors believes that VR showrooms can be put in public places like shopping malls with the possibility to test a real car in a nearby parking lot.
Many modifications and late detection of design errors are among the major predicaments in developing a new car model. Building a new prototype is often costly and time-consuming.
Although virtual prototyping is commonly used by all the leading car manufacturers, VR takes this approach to the next level. It helps both designing and engineering teams better simulate prototypes in terms of volume and size and get a more detailed view of how all vehicle parts are connected.
This increases the chances to detect conception errors earlier, and better understand if there are faulty connections between vehicle parts. For example, SEAT reports a 30% reduction in prototype production time thanks to VR.
Interestingly enough, Ford uses VR to experience their cars from the perspective of people of below- or above-average height. This allows the carmaker to understand different viewpoints and design accordingly.
AR is on its way to transform the employee training process in the automotive industry as well. AR devices allow new employees to be completely immersed in the production process without any risks. For example, BMW offers training sessions for engine assembly units in AR goggles. Participants are guided with the help of visualisations and can control the speed of training with voice. This method drastically increases participants’ satisfaction, reduces time, risks, and human resources required in the process.
With rapid changes in vehicle structures and their growing complexity, service employees often need assistance in their work. AR-powered tablet applications can help service employees to perform certain repair tasks aided by step-by-step visual instructions.
For example, Volkswagen in cooperation with Metaio developed the AR-based application known as MARTA (Mobile Augmented Reality Technical Assistance). The system labels all vehicle parts with text and provides work instructions with additional information such as the tools to be used. This gives service employees an advantage compared to using traditional repair guidelines and makes the service faster and more precise.
Similarly, service technicians at Porsche use AR glasses that overlay virtual schematic illustrations on real vehicle parts in the line of sight. Additionally, remote experts can provide feedback according to what the service employee sees at the moment. This method has proven to be effective, with Porsche reporting a 40% decrease in service resolution times.
Addressing adoption challenges
A study by Capgemini Research Institute concluded that organisations that have managed to find at least five, use cases for these immersive technologies, and have derived much higher benefits. For example, those “early achievers” increased their overall efficiency in vehicle production by 57% compared to 23% of the rest of the surveyed companies.
This implies that there are major hurdles in adopting AR and VR on a larger scale, and as with every innovative technology there has to be a clear plan of implementation to overcome these challenges.
Here are some major keys for successful integration of AR/VR into automotive operations:
It’s essential to focus on the most valuable use cases with the highest ROI. One of the abovementioned study’s key findings is that the biggest challenge for more than half of the companies is to identify a proper use case for the technology.
Building awareness, planning, and execution should be done by a committed team of professionals. The same research shows that companies with a special centralised unit that manages AR/VR applications have had more success.
Companies that have effectively integrated AR/VR technologies also heavily invested in new talent and built their in-house expert teams.
AR and VR technologies bring many advantages for both end customers and manufacturers in the automotive industry. Although there are certain adoption challenges, it’s only a matter of time when these innovative immersive technologies will become an integral part of both the production and the end product.
By Alex Partski