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Will Car Buying Be Driven by an E-Commerce Shopping Model?

Will Car Buying Be Driven by an E-Commerce Shopping Model?

September 27, 2021

Online shopping was a way to avoid stores during Covid and maybe even click away boredom.  Some stores added features that let shoppers preview products, making decisions much easier and hitting buy much less of a questionable mystery for purchases like cosmetics, sunglasses, furniture or even a car. Covid shifted shopping habits…even for new cars. While many consumers might continue to prefer shopping online for goods and services, they also might be more inclined to look to the virtual realm for their car. Will car buying be driven by an e-commerce shopping model, too? According to a story via ABC News, this isn’t just a possibility…it’s now a ‘MINI’ reality! WILL MINI BECOME AN AUTOMOTIVE E-COMMERCE GIANT? Even before Covid, e-commerce platforms already existed for car shopping. However, this wasn’t necessarily an option that all consumers were embracing. Some may prefer old-fashioned dealership visits. But Carvana and other businesses offered a unique service to individuals who didn’t want to take time to visit a dealership. Sites like Carvana let consumers pick out a car and have it delivered. The company offers a convenient way to browse for a new car and complete the process virtually. Consumers also have the option to pick up the car. This is a bit like how stores offer a ‘ship it to store’ or similar option. When Covid forced some dealerships to close in certain areas, consumers might have had no other option but to shop online. Dealerships had to find remedies for creating an online shopping experience; some might have already offered online options. But for many dealerships the pivot to online retail was likely a huge change. Now manufacturers—and dealerships—might understand that automotive e-commerce is the future of the car buying experience. While Tesla lets consumers order their car online, the process from picking out the car to actual delivery of the vehicle can take a bit of time; news outlets report that Tesla deliveries are taking several months. So while Tesla embraces online commerce, purchasing a Tesla isn’t necessarily a quick experience. MINI, however, is rolling out a program that might be the future of automotive e-commerce. The manufacturer, per ABC News, has launched MINI Anywhere in California. The program is a one-and-done e-commerce experience. Consumers can choose their MINI, obtain financing and complete all the paperwork online. The best part? The whole process takes about 20 minutes. MINI Anywhere also includes an augmented reality experience. Want to know how that Mini will look in the driveway? Drop it in the environment. Then walk around the augmented reality graphic to check out the car from different angles. ABC talked to Patrick McKenna, an executive for MINI, who explained to the outlet that consumers can even schedule virtual test drives.   “This definitely is the future; McKenna told ABC News. “We’re making dealers digitally savvy in the marketplace.” POTENTIAL E-COMMERCE SPEED BUMPS? ABC News noted that MINI was planning to offer MINI Anywhere in Florida and Texas. The rest of the dealer network would be included by the end of the year. The future for MINI might definitely be the virtual e-commerce model. However, are there any speed bumps ahead for this model if other manufacturers look to e-commerce platforms for their future, too? ABC News also noted that online models could mean higher prices, and negotiating might not be an option. Buyers also wouldn’t have that tactile experience that the dealership holds. And ABC also touched on the idea of buyer impulsivity. ADD TO CART: WHEN CAR BUYING JUMPS INTO THE E-COMMERCE FASTLANE While ABC mentioned buyer impulsivity related to emotions, there might be more to explore regarding online shopping and impulse buying. Many consumers might relate to having made a purchase decision—perhaps during Covid—that wasn’t based on need but want. Or maybe the speed of the internet spurred a buying decision without much research or thought. While, yes, buying a car usually includes research and visits to dealerships, if more manufacturers embrace e-commerce platforms for purchasing a vehicle, could this speed up the buying process in a bad way for some consumers? The internet allows consumers to shop quickly and conveniently. The option to now add a car to a virtual shopping cart allows the buying process to become more simplistic, and this could be a mixed bag for some shoppers. The good and bad of online shopping can be debated. There is no right or wrong answer. There could be consumers that buy a car without researching thoroughly, while others still spend hours exploring details. Every consumer is different. However, consumers who want to purchase a car can’t exactly just drop a Ferrari into a virtual cart without being approved for financing or having the funds to cover that purchase. Unlike shopping for furniture, shoes or other goods and services, buying a car online is a major purchase. EXPLORING MINI ANYWHERE While MINI Anywhere is only available in California, anyone can check out the site to better understand the MINI virtual experience. The company outlines all the details about what shoppers should have on hand (keep your license nearby!). But there’s also a virtual assistant who is standing by to answer questions and help out shoppers. MINI lets consumers engage in a Live Chat or drop a text. MINI also still accepts trade-ins via the online experience. Shoppers need to include all the details about their car. Kelley Blue Book provides the valuation. Although shoppers are handling the car buying process online, the local dealership is still part of the experience. Shoppers get to choose the dealership from which they wish to purchase their new MINI. The vehicle can be delivered (this is based on proximity, though). E-Commerce Shopping Model [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Dealership-Experience-of-the-Future.jpg] THE DEALERSHIP EXPERIENCE OF THE FUTURE? Covid transformed the shopping experience for the automotive industry. While in-person shopping at the dealership was the standard process, the shelter-in-place mandates that hit many parts of the country forced dealerships to take business online. Yet, online car shopping isn’t entirely new. Carvana has offered online experiences for years. Covid, though, sped up the normalcy of this car shopping trend. While some consumers might have been hesitant to embrace a virtual shopping experience, they also might have found the process to be simpler, faster and a less stressful experience. While the in-person dealership experience was the norm for the industry, was it an enjoyable norm for many consumers? The answer probably depends on the consumer. Some might have enjoyed haggling. Others might have dreaded the experience entirely. Whether or not all consumers are ready for online car shopping, the experience is here…and it’s evolving. Covid and the online pivot might have taken dealerships by surprise, but now many have probably settled into at least offering some type of online options. MINI Anywhere might just be the beginning. Nissan offers online shopping via Nissan@Home. And other manufacturers may line up to offer their own online platforms. Consumers will drive demand. What the consumer prefers will ultimately influence the industry’s next move. According to Cox Automotive Car Buyer Journey Study: Pandemic Edition, new car buyers spent a little more than 5.5 hours online researching and shopping—an hour less than a year prior. The report also noted that more than 11 hours and 11 minutes were spent on purchasing a new car (this was closer to 12 hours in 2019). Among new car shoppers, only 45 percent knew what they wanted from the beginning of the shopping experience. If manufacturers streamline their online process, perhaps these figures could dwindle. That is, maybe consumers might speed up their process if it’s easier to find what they want. This could be true for those who know exactly what type of car they want. Yet, maybe dealerships could continue to be the destination for some shoppers. While online shopping is an option for many businesses currently, not all consumers shop just online. Many will choose to purchase some items online and go in store for other purchases. Others use online options as often as possible. Perhaps the dealership experience becomes a hybrid option. Maybe they offer both in-person and online purchasing options. Something for everyone. Those who want to visit the dealership and shop around for the best price might continue to do so. Maybe, though, different dealerships have unique online offers. Promotions might not go away, rebates might still be offered online. And different sales could be promoted periodically, too. Automotive e-commerce is evolving, though. MINI might be the first of many to begin to offer online platforms and experiences for a convenient and quick shopping experience. In the future, car buying could be a seamless online experience. Consumers might be able to browse all their vehicle options and maybe view them in their own environment via augmented reality (like MINI!). MINI Anywhere might be the model for car shopping, and consumers might be on the lookout for which manufacturer follows MINI’s mega lead.

The Benefits of A Virtual Auto Showroom

The Benefits of A Virtual Auto Showroom

September 15, 2021

In the past, the average consumer’s car buying journey began in an auto showroom. This is where consumers would explore vehicles, compare models, take test drives, narrow down their options, and make purchase decisions. But times have changed–and so has the consumer car buying journey.  The vast majority of consumers begin their car buying journey online rather than inside a showroom. They no longer need to visit a showroom to research their options. Instead, today’s consumers spend an average of 14 hours conducting online research in the early stages of their car buying journey.  Because so much of the car buying journey has shifted online, many automotive dealers now offer virtual auto showroom tours for online consumers. Automotive consumers can use their smartphone, tablet, or computer to step inside a virtual showroom. Then, they can examine the exterior and interior of cars and learn about different models just like they would if they were in a real showroom. The showrooms are powered by either virtual or augmented reality technology, so consumers will feel like they are actually looking at the vehicles in real life.  If you’re in the auto industry, you may be wondering whether you need to invest in a virtual auto showroom. Building a virtual auto showroom to showcase your inventory can benefit both your business and your customers. Here’s how: REDUCES TIME AT DEALERSHIP The amount of time an automotive consumer spends at a dealership can have a direct impact on how satisfied they are with the car buying process. In fact, research reveals that the less time the consumer spent at the dealership, the more satisfied they were with the car buying process as a whole. Right now, the average automotive consumer spends around three hours at the dealership when buying a car. However, their satisfaction starts to decline after about 90 minutes. If you want to increase customer satisfaction at your dealership, it’s important to reduce the amount of time that it takes for consumers to buy a car. To do this, start by building a virtual auto showroom.  Allowing consumers to visit a virtual auto showroom can drastically reduce the amount of time they spend in your dealership. Inside a virtual auto showroom, consumers can get all of the information they need to compare their options and make a final purchase decision.  Automotive consumers who use virtual showrooms may not need to visit a dealership until they know which vehicle they want and are ready to purchase it. They won’t need to talk to sales representatives, take test drives, or tour the showroom floor once they go to a dealer.  This could benefit both consumers and dealers. It benefits the consumers by saving them hours of time once they arrive at the dealership. But it also benefits the dealer by increasing customer satisfaction. The Benefits of A Virtual Auto Showroom [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Lowers-Operating-Costs.jpg] LOWERS OPERATING COSTS Adding a virtual auto showroom to your website may require an initial investment, but it can actually save auto dealers money over time.  Each auto showroom may house dozens of different vehicles. Auto dealers are responsible for covering the costs of transporting these vehicles to their showrooms. Once the vehicles arrive, auto dealers must pay to maintain them. Maintenance costs can add up quickly. This is because every vehicle may require a great deal of maintenance to ensure they are in pristine condition when customers arrive. Furthermore, auto dealers need to pay for a property that is large enough to showcase all of these different vehicles. The larger the space, the more it will cost to rent or own.  These costs can cripple small auto dealers. But now, auto dealers of all sizes can lower operating costs by investing in a virtual auto showroom.  Auto dealers that offer virtual showrooms won’t need to keep as many vehicles on-site in their showrooms. Instead, they can invite consumers to explore their inventory online using their smartphone, tablet, or computer. Reducing the number of vehicles kept on-site can save auto dealers thousands of dollars in transportation, maintenance, and other showroom operating expenses.  BROADENS CUSTOMER BASE The automotive industry is incredibly competitive. Some areas have dozens of auto dealers that are all competing for the same small group of consumers. However, a virtual auto showroom will allow auto dealers to broaden their customer base by connecting with consumers located outside of their community. Automotive consumers can tour a virtual showroom even if they live hundreds of miles away from the dealership. If they find a vehicle they like, they can contact the dealer to purchase the vehicle online or over the phone so they don’t need to waste time traveling to the showroom.  Being able to connect with a larger customer base can help dealers increase sales and move inventory off of the lot more quickly.  Benefits of A Virtual Auto Showroom [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Gives-Customers-What-They-Want.jpg] GIVES CUSTOMERS WHAT THEY WANT As an auto dealer, you should always be on the lookout for new ways to enhance the shopping experience for consumers. One way to do this is by offering a virtual auto showroom. Automotive consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of shopping for a car online. Sixty-three percent of automotive consumers said they would consider buying their next vehicle online. Sixty-six percent of these consumers said they would be comfortable exploring different vehicles online rather than in person in a showroom. If you aren’t offering these consumers the opportunity to visit a virtual showroom, you aren’t giving them what they want. As a result, you could miss out on the opportunity to convert them into loyal customers.  CREATES A BETTER SHOPPING EXPERIENCE FOR CONSUMERS If a potential customer wants to visit your showroom in person, they may need to rearrange their schedule in order to make it to your dealership during normal business hours. But visiting a virtual auto showroom is far more convenient.  Your customers won’t need to wait until your dealership is open, call to make an appointment, or waste their time driving across town to visit a virtual auto showroom. They can access your virtual auto showroom from their smartphone, tablet, or computer at any time from any location. This allows consumers to start the car buying process whenever it is most convenient for them. They no longer need to work around your showroom’s schedule. The experience might be more enjoyable, too. Some automotive consumers don’t like visiting showrooms because they feel pressured by sales representatives who are eager to sell as many vehicles as possible. These aggressive sales tactics may force customers to make hasty decisions that they later regret. However, this isn’t an issue inside a virtual showroom.  In a virtual showroom, consumers won’t have to deal with pushy sales representatives breathing down their neck. They can take their time exploring different models without feeling pressured to make a decision or purchase a vehicle. There’s no limit on how many vehicles they can look at, so they can spend as much time as they would like learning about their options. Benefits of A Virtual Auto Showroom [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Provides-A-Competitive-Advantage.jpg] PROVIDES A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE Having a virtual auto showroom also gives dealers a competitive advantage. If you are the only dealer in your area with a virtual auto showroom, automotive consumers who want to start the car buying process online may choose your dealership just so they can take advantage of this convenient tool. This may help you attract customers you otherwise would have lost to your competitors.

How the Car Dealer Showroom Experience Has Changed

How the Car Dealer Showroom Experience Has Changed

August 27, 2021

In 1897, William Metziger built the world’s first automotive showroom in Detroit. Since this time, automotive showrooms have played a major role in the car buying process. Inside showrooms, consumers were given the opportunity to connect with automotive brands, explore different vehicles, and learn about the latest and greatest automotive technologies. Automotive consumers typically used the information they acquired inside a showroom to make informed purchase decisions.  In other words, visiting a dealer’s showroom was an irreplaceable part of the car buying process in the past. But that’s all changed thanks to recent technological advances. Here’s what you should know about the evolving car dealer showroom experience: HOW HAS THE CAR BUYING PROCESS CHANGED? Consumers routinely buy beauty products, clothing, books, electronics, and other items online. But until recently, the automotive industry was largely unaffected by the shift to online shopping. Over the last several years, though, the car buying process has shifted online.  Some consumers have started to complete the entire car buying process online. In 2018, only about 1% of car buyers purchased their vehicle online. But just several years later, about one in 10 car buyers are purchasing vehicles online.  Others, however, have simply shifted certain aspects of the car buying process online, even though they complete the actual transaction in-person at a dealership.  For example, researching different vehicles is an important step in the consumer car buying journey. In the past, automotive consumers conducted this research by visiting an average of five dealerships before making a purchase.  However, the vast majority of automotive consumers now conduct this research online rather than at a dealer. Today’s automotive consumer spends about 13 to 14 hours conducting research online before deciding which vehicle to purchase. As a result, automotive consumers now only visit one to two dealerships before making a purchase decision.  Car Dealer Showroom [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Car-Dealer-Showroom-Experience.jpg] HOW THE SHIFT TO DIGITAL IMPACTED THE CAR DEALER SHOWROOM EXPERIENCE The shift to digital has impacted nearly every aspect of the car buying process, including the traditional car dealer showroom visit. Here are some of the many ways in which it has impacted the car dealer showroom experience: * Car Buying Process No Longer Begins In A Showroom * Videos Drive Foot Traffic * Virtual Showrooms * Consumers Spend Less Time At Dealerships * At-Home Test Drives CAR BUYING PROCESS NO LONGER BEGINS IN A SHOWROOM A consumer’s car buying journey used to begin inside a car dealer’s showroom. The consumer would visit the showroom to consult with a sales representative, learn about different vehicles, compare their options, and make a purchase decision. But the car buying journey now rarely begins inside a dealership–it starts online.  Today’s automotive consumers start the car buying process by visiting websites to research their options. About 78% of automotive consumers visit at least two websites, and 56% of these consumers start on third-party websites. Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader are two of the most popular third-party sites that consumers visit during the car buying journey. Only 17% of automotive consumers visit a dealership website at the start of their car buying journey. However, one-third of consumers say that a dealership website is the last website they visit prior to making a purchase decision. This means that consumers who visit dealer websites are most likely at the end of the sales cycle, which means they are in the final stages of making a purchase decision. All of this occurs before the consumer ever steps foot inside an auto dealer’s showroom.  Car Dealer Showroom [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Consumers-Spend-Less-Time-At-Dealerships.jpg] CONSUMERS SPEND LESS TIME AT DEALERSHIPS In the past, sales representatives were given ample time to sell to consumers who walked into their showroom. These sales representatives played an active role in helping the consumer decide which vehicle to purchase. However, the shift to digital has impacted the role of the showroom sales representative. Because consumers are completing many of the car buying steps online, the amount of time that automotive consumers spend at dealerships has declined over the last several years. In 2020, it hit an all-time low of two hours and thirty-five minutes. This may seem like a lot of time, but most of it is not spent inside the showroom. It’s estimated that about 90 minutes of this time is spent discussing financing options and completing paperwork. Roughly 25 minutes is spent finalizing the terms of a trade-in deal.  This leaves very little time for a showroom sales representative to actually sell to the consumer. Sales representatives often aren’t even given an opportunity to sell to consumers who visit their showrooms. This is because many of today’s automotive consumers don’t visit a dealership in-person until they have concluded their online research and decided which vehicle they want to buy. They show up at the dealership ready to complete the transaction, so sales representatives don’t have a chance to do their sales pitch.  VIDEOS DRIVE FOOT TRAFFIC Because the car buying process no longer begins in a showroom, dealers must invest heavily in marketing efforts designed to drive foot traffic. There are many different automotive marketing strategies, but research shows that video marketing might be one of the most effective ways to drive foot traffic to car dealer showrooms.  Online videos may strongly influence an automotive consumer during their car buying journey. Three-fourths of auto consumers say that watching online videos has influenced their shopping habits or purchase decisions. Furthermore, 40% of car shoppers who watched online videos to research their options said these videos introduced them to cars they otherwise weren’t aware of or considering.  However, video does more than just help automotive consumers discover new vehicles and narrow down their options. It also drives traffic to showrooms. About 60% of car shoppers who watched online videos said they visited a dealer or dealer’s website as a result of the videos they watched. Fiat Chrysler recently used video marketing to promote its annual sale, the Jeep Celebration. The company tracked foot traffic at over 300 dealers to measure the impact of its video marketing campaign. The results revealed that the video marketing campaign attracted more than 50,000 customers to showrooms in a six-week period. The results of this campaign clearly indicate that dealers can successfully drive more traffic to their showrooms by focusing on video marketing efforts. Car Dealer Showroom [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Virtual-Showrooms.jpg] VIRTUAL SHOWROOMS The car dealer showroom experience may have changed, but this doesn’t mean it’s going away any time soon. Many automotive companies have responded to the shift to shopping online by launching virtual car dealer showrooms. A virtual showroom is an automotive showroom powered by augmented or virtual reality.  Auto consumers can typically enter a virtual showroom using their computer, tablet, or smartphone. Once inside, they can explore vehicles just like they would if they were actually in a car dealer’s showroom. They can rotate a vehicle to see it from every angle, enlarge the vehicle to get a closer look at it, adjust the settings to see the vehicle in different colors, and even step inside to examine the interior.  A virtual showroom allows consumers to get the same car dealer showroom experience from the comfort of their home. It also helps them complete another step of the car buying journey from home rather than inside a dealership. This will appeal to consumers who want to complete as much of the car buying journey online as possible. In fact, two-thirds of consumers say they are comfortable touring vehicles entirely or partially online before making a purchase decision. AT-HOME TEST DRIVES Automotive consumers used to visit showrooms not only to explore different vehicles, but also to test drive them. However, car dealers are now giving consumers the opportunity to test drive vehicles without visiting their showroom. Some car dealers allow consumers to schedule “test drive deliveries.” If a consumer chooses this option, the car dealer will arrange to drop off the vehicle at the consumer’s house and pick it up once their test drive is over. This is far more convenient than traveling to a dealership for a test drive, which is why it is so popular among consumers.  Automotive consumers also have the option of taking a virtual test drive using their smartphone, tablet, or computer. A virtual test drive allows them to see what it’s like to sit behind the wheel of a vehicle without ever seeing the vehicle in person. These test drives are powered by virtual reality, so the consumer will feel as if they are really driving down the road in the car of their choice.  Now that these options are available, it’s not as necessary for consumers to visit showrooms in person.  Car Dealer Showroom [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/The-Future-of-the-Car-Dealer-Showroom-Experience.jpg] THE FUTURE OF THE CAR DEALER SHOWROOM EXPERIENCE The shift to online car shopping was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but this doesn’t mean that things will go back to normal once the pandemic is over. Research shows that the shift to digital has made the car buying process more convenient and efficient.  Satisfaction levels have also increased among consumers who shop for cars online. Buyers who completed half or more of the car buying steps online were far more satisfied with their overall experience than buyers who completed 20% or less of the process online. Because of this, it’s safe to say that the shift to digital and the impact it has had on the showroom experience is here to stay.

Top Virtual Trends in the Automotive Industry

Top Virtual Trends in the Automotive Industry

August 9, 2021

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: VIRTUAL SHOWROOMS 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. Top Virtual Trends in the Automotive Industry [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Virtual-Test-Drives.jpg] 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. Top Virtual Trends in the Automotive Industry [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Virtual-Vehicle-Prototypes.jpg] 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. IN-CAR ENTERTAINMENT 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.  Top Virtual Trends in the Automotive Industry [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Employee-Training.jpg] EMPLOYEE TRAINING 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. Top Virtual Trends in the Automotive Industry [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Manufacturing-Facility-Design.jpg] 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.

How A Car Color Change App Works

How A Car Color Change App Works

July 16, 2021

There are many different types of automotive-related apps in the Google Play and Apple App Stores. There are apps designed to improve the driving experience, help consumers find parking spots or electric car chargers, and buy or sell vehicles. There are even apps that drivers can use to convert their smartphones into dash cameras.  One of the most useful automotive tools found in app stores is the car color change app. These apps give consumers the power to see what the exterior of a specific vehicle would look like in various colors. How does a car color change app work? What are the best car color change apps? Here’s what you need to know: THE TECHNOLOGY BEHIND CAR COLOR CHANGE APPS Most car color change apps are supported by virtual reality, augmented reality, or 3D technology. Each of these innovative technologies is used to bring the car to life and enhance the user’s experience. App developers use 3D technology to create three-dimensional images of vehicles. Making the vehicles three-dimensional creates a more realistic and lifelike experience for the user.  Some car color change apps are also designed with virtual reality technology, which is used to create a simulated environment. Users can explore and interact with this simulated environment just like they would in the real world. For example, if the user turns their head, the graphics in the simulated environment will adjust to this movement accordingly. It’s a fully immersive experience, so users will feel like the vehicle is right there in the room with them.  Augmented reality is technology that combines elements of the digital world with elements of the real world. This technology allows users to project images, audio, or other digital elements directly onto their real world environment. An augmented reality car app, for example, might allow the user to project a life-size digital model of a vehicle into their garage. The digital model looks real, so it will appear as if the vehicle is actually parked in the user’s garage. How A Car Color Change App Works [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/When-to-Use-A-Car-Color-Change-App.jpg] WHEN TO USE A CAR COLOR CHANGE APP A car color change app is a useful tool that consumers can use in a variety of situations. These apps can be used: * For entertainment purposes: Seeing what the exterior of a vehicle looks like in different colors is entertaining, which is why many consumers use these apps for fun. If you are a car enthusiast who is looking for a way to pass the time, downloading a car color change app might be the answer.  * To make informed decisions: These apps are also perfect for consumers who are thinking about painting the exterior of their vehicle a different color. If you’re in this situation, use a color change app to test out different colors on your vehicle. You can see what each color would look like and decide which one you like best. This way, you can ensure you will be satisfied with your selection.  * During the car buying process: The vast majority of automotive consumers start the process of shopping for a car online. Using a car color change app can help consumers who are still trying to decide which vehicle to purchase. They can see what a specific vehicle would look like in other colors so they can decide on the make, model, and color of their next vehicle from the comfort of their home.  WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF USING A CAR COLOR CHANGE APP? There are countless benefits to using a car color change app, including: * Discover new color customization options. You can use a color change app to learn new and exciting ways to change the exterior of your vehicle. * Visualize colors in advance. A color change app allows you to visualize what different colors will look like on your vehicle before you paint or wrap it. This helps you avoid choosing the wrong color or wrap for your vehicle. * Simplifies the process of buying a car. You don’t need to travel to a showroom to see what a car looks like in different colors. Now you can do this from home using a car color change app. How A Car Color Change App Works [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/What-Are-the-Best-Car-Color-Change-Tools.jpg] WHAT ARE THE BEST CAR COLOR CHANGE TOOLS? There are a number of tools you can use to see what a vehicle would look like in different colors. Some of the best car color change tools include: * Automotive Manufacturer Websites * Carwrapper * Color Splash * RelayCars AUTOMOTIVE MANUFACTURER WEBSITES Some of the best color change tools are available on automotive manufacturers’ websites. If you are interested in seeing a specific model in different colors, check the manufacturer’s website to see if this feature is available. For example, if you are thinking about buying a new Toyota Camry, head to the Toyota website. Toyota, like many other automotive manufacturers, has a website feature that allows you to build your own custom vehicle. After selecting a specific model, the next thing you will need to choose when building your custom vehicle is the exterior color. During this step of the process, you can change the color of the vehicle as many times as you would like until you find one you love. CARWRAPPER If you want to change the color of your vehicle’s exterior, the two options are repainting it or wrapping it. A car wrap is a layer of vinyl film that can be applied to the exterior of your vehicle. If you’re considering a vinyl wrap, you may want to download the Carwrapper app to explore your options.  This app makes it easy for consumers to visualize what different types of car wraps will look like on their vehicle. To begin, select the make and model of your vehicle. The next step is choosing what material you want to apply to your vehicle. You can choose from a wide variety of real wrap materials. After selecting the material and color, you will need to choose a finish for your car wrap. Some of the finishes that are available on the app include matte, gloss, chrome, metallic, and pearl. The final step is deciding whether you want a full or partial wrap. Then, apply your selections so you can see what your custom wrap will look like on your vehicle. Car wraps are expensive. If you’re thinking about wrapping your car, use this app to make sure you will like the way it looks before you pay for it.  COLOR SPLASH Color Splash is not designed specifically for cars. It’s a photo editing app that allows you to quickly and easily adjust the color of any photo you upload. Although it is not an automotive app, it can be used to visualize what a vehicle would look like in different colors.  To begin, you can either upload a photo from your photo library or use your smartphone’s camera to take a new photo of your vehicle. Then, select a color from the menu located at the bottom of the screen. To apply the color, tap anywhere on your vehicle. The color will only appear in the areas you tap, so it may take a few minutes to cover your entire vehicle in the selected color. You could also paint half the car in one color and the other half in a different color to compare your options.  The app is easy to navigate, but applying color to your vehicle can be time-consuming. It can also be difficult to stay within the lines of your vehicle when applying the selected color. For these reasons, this is not the best app to use to make serious decisions regarding your vehicle’s exterior color, but it is great for entertainment purposes. How A Car Color Change App Works [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/RelayCars.jpg] RELAYCARS RelayCars is a unique app that allows you to change the color on thousands of different models of vehicles. The app is powered by 3D and augmented reality technology, but you don’t need a special headset to use it. All you need is access to a smartphone, tablet, or computer.  To begin, select which vehicle you would like to visualize in different colors. You can choose from a wide range of luxury, SUV, trucks, sedans, and other vehicle categories. Once you select a vehicle, the color options will appear at the bottom of the screen. The app will only show you the colors that are available for the specific model you selected. For example, if a manufacturer only makes a model in five different colors, these are the only five colors that will appear.  Tap on any color to change the exterior of the vehicle. Then, use your mouse or fingers to rotate the vehicle so you can see it from every angle. You can even resize the vehicle to get a closer look at the color or switch to the interior view to see the view from behind the wheel. This app is ideal for consumers who are thinking about purchasing a new car. RelayCars creates a virtual showroom experience so consumers can explore vehicles, compare models, and narrow down their options without ever leaving home. This way, you will know exactly what vehicle you want to buy once you arrive at the dealership, so you won’t need to spend as much time in the showroom.

A Car Visualizer Helps Buyers Imagine the Possibilities

A Car Visualizer Helps Buyers Imagine the Possibilities

July 7, 2021

Cox Automotives 2019 Car Buyer Journey Study revealed that utilizing smartphones for car shopping increased “…11 percentage points year over year.” As Cox points out, this boost in the use of smartphones means that the shopping experience needs to be accessible via all types of devices. Computers are now handheld, thanks to tablets and phones.Shopping and research methodologies available online also have evolved, and they continue to become more unique, interactive and immersive to meet the ever changing demands of the consumer. A car visualizer tool, for example, may integrate technology like augmented reality or virtual reality to help shoppers preview different makes and models and even swap out paint hues. A car visualizer helps buyers imagine the possibilities of their dream car when shopping or researching online. But how does this unique tool actually benefit the shopper? And what are the costs of using this type of technology? Car shopping might begin at home…and online. Cars are an expensive purchase, so buyers might be hesitant to spend money on just the research aspect of their hunt. Check out many different vehicles online, and make a list of favorites before heading to the dealerships! There also aren’t a maximum number of cars that can be previewed or visualized via RelayCars. Have fun looking at all of them! Car Visualizer [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/What-Can-Shoppers-Visualize.jpg] WHAT CAN SHOPPERS VISUALIZE WITH A CAR VISUALIZER? Consumers can choose from a long list of makes and models to preview online. Images are shown to scale in 3D. The virtual reality showroom lets shoppers view the car from different angles or vantage points to get a better idea of the design of the vehicle. Shoppers also can look inside the car to see the interior features or check out the space in the backseat. Use the mouse to navigate around the vehicle and see images of specific details. The car visualizer tool also lets shoppers change the paint colors of the automobile. Some buyers have a color preference, but others might not care about those hues. This option lets shoppers preview many different paint colors, and this could lead to shoppers finding a personal preference among those options. For pre-owned cars, buyers might not be able to choose their favorite hue. Previewing different colors can help buyers see what each option looks like. When they begin their in-person hunt, they can be better prepared for all the color options they might come across on the lots.   HOW CAN A CAR VISUALIZER SAVE TIME? Cox Automotive also notes that almost two-thirds of consumers (65 percent) visit third-party sites first during their shopping journey. And while Cox’s survey notes that buyers will visit an average of 2.5 dealerships, “…41% of car buyers only visit one dealership.” When buyers can research vehicles online, perhaps they have more knowledge going into a dealership regarding what they really want and need. For this reason, a car visualizer might save buyers time during those in-person visits. Viewing cars online allows buyers to get up close with different makes and models. They may be able to rule out certain vehicles, and may even create a list of the models that they want to focus on during their visit to the dealership. A CAR VISUALIZER: A VIRTUAL SHOWROOM…AND A VIRTUAL CAR LOT! RelayCars’ online virtual car visualizer is technically a virtual showroom. Using this online tool, shoppers can choose one model to explore at a time. However, this tool also can serve as a virtual car lot, too. When shoppers have a specific preference regarding the make of the car—e.g. Ford, Subaru, Toyota, Nissan, etc.—they can use the car showroom to preview all the different models from that manufacturer. Maybe the consumer is trying to decide between a few different models of a brand. A virtual car visualizer lets the shopper explore all the different models both inside and out! Look at the model in different colors, too! The visit to the car dealership may then just focus on test drives, paperwork and negotiations. When the buyer already knows the details of their favorite models, they can focus on the purchase…and finalizing the deal! Car Visualizer [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Is-a-Car-Visualizer-Compatible-with-all-Devices.jpg] IS A CAR VISUALIZER COMPATIBLE WITH ALL DEVICES? RelayCars’ virtual reality showroom can be viewed online using a high-speed internet connection. The speed of the connection, however, can affect how quickly photos and images load on the tool. Consumers can use RelayCars on their personal computer, laptop or handheld device (phone or tablet). Don’t worry about downloading any apps or data; just visit the site to preview all the different vehicles. Navigating the car visualizer (or virtual car showroom) is easy! Just use the mouse to move around the vehicle and see the car from different perspectives. The showroom offers viewing options, which can be found at the bottom of the web page. Users can choose to view the car’s exterior, interior or click through different paint colors to change the look of the car. Most models offer numerous paint color options. DOES VIRTUAL REALITY REQUIRE A HEADSET? RelayCars offers a virtual showroom to preview different vehicles. While some virtual reality experiences can only be accessed via a headset, RelayCars is accessible by anyone with a fast internet connection. No headset required. The ‘virtual’ aspect of the showroom is that it exists in an online or virtual space. The cars are represented in scaled models and images are 3D. All aspects of the experience are immersive. Users can explore all different aspects of a vehicle, and, in this way, can enjoy a virtual reality showroom without investing in any extra technology or equipment. HOW MANY CARS ARE AVAILABLE VIA A CAR VISUALIZER? Using RelayCars’ virtual reality showroom allows shoppers to access new and older cars from almost every manufacturer.   Most makes include earlier models dating from 2015 (depending on the vehicle model) and go up to current models. Shoppers looking for a pre-owned car can explore these earlier models to help them during their hunt.  While the cars via RelayCars are not pre-owned depictions, they are model representations of those particular vehicles. Buyers should keep in mind that pre-owned models could vary regarding their features, condition and/or other details. While virtual car visualizers can help those looking for a pre-owned vehicle see a particular year’s model, a visit to the dealership allows buyers to get up close to pre-owned vehicles…and to test the vehicle on the road. Car Visualizer [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/The-dealership.jpg] When consumers have researched an estimated price and have determined that this is the car for their budget and lifestyle, it might be time for a trip to the dealership. Online resources might have armed the consumer with all the information they need to negotiate or just finalize the deal. The dealership is also the place to take those dream vehicles for a test drive. While online tools can help shoppers visualize the car and even find pricing, driving the car might be what makes…or breaks…the deal. Sometimes even the most perfect car might not be what the shopper is looking for on the road. But even if the test drive ends on a low note, research from the car visualizer might allow the consumer to have a few back-up options to take for a spin. Consumers beginning their car shopping journey can visit RelayCars to check out all the different vehicle options and find their favorites. Make a list of a few options, price them out via other websites or sources and then head to the dealership to find the best car for the budget.

What You Should Know About Using A Car Customizer App

What You Should Know About Using A Car Customizer App

June 30, 2021

Last year, it was reported that there were nearly 9 million apps available in app stores globally. Even though it’s only been a year, there’s no doubt that this number has grown exponentially since then. With so many apps available, the expression “there’s an app for that” has never been more spot on.  This is especially true when it comes to the automotive industry, which offers a wide range of apps to meet all automotive consumers’ unique needs. One of the most popular types of automotive apps is the car customizer app, which gives consumers the power to create custom vehicles using their smartphones or tablets.  What can you do with a car customizer app? Which car customizer apps should you download? Here’s what you need to know about these innovative apps: WHAT ARE CAR CUSTOMIZER APPS? There are many different types of car customizer apps. Some apps allow you to see what different customization options such as tinted windows, spoilers, or paint colors would look like on a specific vehicle, whereas others let you select different wheels, rims, and other car parts to build a custom car from scratch.  Although the features may differ, all of these apps are designed to give consumers the opportunity to explore car customization options in the palm of their hand. Car Customizer App [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/How-Do-Car-Customizer-Apps-Work.jpg] HOW DO CAR CUSTOMIZER APPS WORK? Most car customizer apps are powered by innovative technologies, including 3D, virtual reality, and augmented reality technology. 3D technology is used to make objects within the app appear three-dimensional, which makes them look more real and life-like. This technology allows an app’s user to feel like they are actually customizing a real car. Virtual reality is a technology that transports users to a simulated environment. This technology creates a fully immersive experience, so everything users see, hear, and sense is part of the simulation. Virtual reality has the power to make users feel like they are standing right in front of the vehicle they are looking at on their app. Augmented reality is a technology that blends the user’s digital world and real world together. This technology allows users to superimpose digital elements such as images or sounds onto their real world environment. For example, an app with this technology might allow users to project a life-size digital model of a vehicle into their driveway. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF USING A CAR CUSTOMIZER APP? There are many benefits to using a car customizer app, including: * Convenient * Visualize Different Customization Options * Discover New Customization Options * Simplify the Car Buying Process CONVENIENT Using a car customizer app is convenient for consumers. The apps can be downloaded directly onto their smartphones or tablets and accessed at any time with a tap of a finger. This gives consumers the option of playing around with their customization options on any day, at any time.  They don’t need to wait for a business to open or schedule an appointment to begin–they can start at whatever time is most convenient to them. They also won’t need to invest in any special equipment in order to access these apps. All they need is a smartphone or tablet and access to the app store. VISUALIZE DIFFERENT CUSTOMIZATION OPTIONS It can be hard for consumers to visualize what a specific customization option will look like on a vehicle.  For example, if you are thinking about painting your car a different color, you may wonder whether you will be happy with the final result. Even if you love the color, you never know how it will look once it’s on your car. In the past, you may have had to spend hours searching for an image of your vehicle in the specific color online. Or even worse, you may have had no other choice but to go through with the paint job, not knowing whether or not you would regret the decision in the end. But now, you can easily visualize different customization options using your smartphone or tablet. You can see what different options actually look like, which may help you avoid making a costly customization mistake.  Car Customizer App [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Discover-New-Customization-Options.jpg] DISCOVER NEW CUSTOMIZATION OPTIONS There are hundreds of ways to customize your car, but most consumers aren’t aware of the  endless options available to them. This is why consumers can use these apps to discover customization options that they never thought of or imagined were possible. You can use a car customizer app to explore the exciting world of car customization to learn more about your options before deciding which ones are right for you.  SIMPLIFY THE BUYING PROCESS Many consumers use car customizer apps to see what different options will look like on vehicles they already own. However, consumers who are interested in purchasing a new vehicle can also benefit from these apps. If you are shopping for a new car, use a car customizer app to explore the car up close, see it in different colors, and learn more about its features. This makes it easy to research and compare different vehicles, narrow down your options, and choose a vehicle that’s right for you.  This can streamline the process of buying a new vehicle and save you time once you arrive at the dealer. By the time you go to the dealer, you will already know exactly what car you want to purchase, so you won’t need to spend hours on the showroom floor.  WHAT ARE THE BEST CAR CUSTOMIZER APPS? The app store is filled with countless car customizer apps, which can make it hard to determine which one you should download. If you’re ready to explore the world of car customization, here are some of the best apps to download on your smartphone or tablet: * RelayCars * Fix My Car: Custom Mods LITE * Car Mechanic Simulator 18 * Car Wrapper * Paint My Ride FIX MY CAR: CUSTOM MODS LITE Have you ever wondered what a specific vehicle would look like as a street racing car? If so, this is the app for you. Fix My Car: Custom Mods LITE allows you to customize your favorite vehicle to upgrade it into a street racing car.  Not only is this app entertaining, but it’s educational as well. You can use this app to learn more about the custom modifications, features of a race car, and how to install different parts. There is a free version of this app, but it is filled with ads. If you want an ad-free experience, you have to upgrade to the paid version.  CAR MECHANIC SIMULATOR 18 Whereas Fix My Car: Custom Mods LITE is designed for race car enthusiasts, Car Mechanic Simulator 18 is designed for classic car lovers. The app allows you to choose from a wide range of classic cars. Once you make a selection, you can start making customizations and upgrades to breathe new life into your classic vehicle. You can use the app to repair old car parts, remove rust, add special features, and repaint the exterior of the car. Flex your creative muscle to build a one-of-a-kind classic car. The app is built with incredible graphics, which makes the entire experience feel more real.  CAR WRAPPER The term “car wrap” refers to a vinyl wrap that partially or completely covers the exterior of a vehicle. A car wrap can feature different colors, finishes, and patterns. Many consumers get car wraps so they can drastically change the exterior of their vehicle without repainting it. If you’re thinking about getting this done to your car, make sure you choose the right car wrap by using the Car Wrapper app to see how it will look. Choose the make and model of your vehicle. Then, design a car wrap by selecting different colors, finishes, and other options. Once you’re satisfied with the design, apply it to the vehicle to see what it will look like. PAINT MY RIDE If you just want to see what a different color of paint will look like on your car, Paint My Ride is the app for you. All you need to do is take a picture of your vehicle and upload it into the app. Then, choose a paint color and adjust the saturation and brightness to see what it will look like on your car. Car Customizer App [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/RelayCars.jpg] RELAYCARS There are many car customizer apps, but none that can compare to the RelayCars virtual reality and augmented reality apps. The RelayCars virtual reality app allows you to step inside a virtual showroom to explore the interior and exterior of over 1,000 different vehicles. You can adjust your selections to visualize different customization options for every vehicle in RelayCars’ extensive library. Because it is powered by virtual reality technology, it will feel like you’re actually inside an auto dealer’s showroom. Just like the RelayCars virtual reality app, the RelayCars augmented reality app allows you to view customized vehicles inside a digital showroom. But you can also use the RelayCars augmented reality app to see what various customized cars will look like in your real world environment. Project digital models of your custom creations into your driveway, garage, or even onto the street around you. Visit the Apple App Store or Google Play Store to download these apps today.

Driving into the Future: An Update on the Autonomous Car

Driving into the Future: An Update on the Autonomous Car

May 27, 2021

Technology leaders like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Tesla may be in a race to discover who will develop the first successful autonomous car…and who will take this concept mainstream. Technological innovations are driving the future, and autonomous cars may soon take the driver’s seat and hit the highways. Before consumers can purchase a car that drives without a driver, though, there are many hurdles developers need to cross. Many are trying to pave the way for autonomous travel across the nation’s highways and byways, but how far are these companies in unveiling the first true self-driving car? Here’s an update on driving autonomy and what the future may hold. Driving into the Future: An Update on the Autonomous Car [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/The-Robotaxi.jpg] THE ROBOTAXI China may be taking the lead on self-driving innovation. New Atlas reported that Baidu (a Chinese tech titan) has hit the gas on its Apollo self-driving Robotaxis. According to the news story, the taxis will service Shougang Park in Shanghai and already clocked more than 10 million kilometers in prior safety tests before they became available to the public. New Atlas explains that the service will be tied to the Apollo app. Individuals can download the app and then hail an Apollo robotaxi. QR codes are reportedly used to verify the identity of the individual, and these codes gain access to the taxi. The passenger touches a button to begin the ride, but the journey only begins when the seatbelt is fastened and no doors are ajar. The service will be available to individuals visiting for the 2022 Olympics, so Baidu’s service could make quite the impression on international visitors. In the United States, robotaxis also are being test piloted in certain cities. Back in 2020, California gave the green light to robotaxis that hoped to operate in the state.  About a month after The Verge reported on California’s nod to autonomy, it was announced that Amazon’s Zoox (a self-driving robotaxi) would debut ridesharing operations in San Francisco and Las Vegas. However, Zoox planned to test services in three cities first: Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Foster City, Calif. December was a busy month for robotaxi announcements in the States. Reuters reported that Lyft and Motional were partnering up to swerve into the robotaxi lane. Per the story, the companies would debut services in 2023. Meanwhile, Waymo (an Alphabet subsidiary) began to offer services in Chandler, Ariz. The robotaxi service was officially open to the public, at least in that specific city. Tesla also may be ready to hit the road with its own robotaxi service. Business Insider reported that Tesla plans to launch a ridesharing robotaxi service that can be hailed via app. According to the story, members of the public also could add their own cars to the fleet (assuming they own a Tesla). GM, with the help of Microsoft as well as other investors, anticipates getting the Cruise up for robotaxi services . The Cruise will include Microsoft’s cloud platform, Azure, and Microsoft’s Edge. While Cruise has conducted test drives in San Francisco, Car and Driver notes that an official date for the robotaxi services is unknown. Car and Driver also reported that Cadillac unveiled two autonomous concepts at the CES trade show. One was compared to a limo, and this concept was an elegant travel pod that featured self-driving capabilities. Cadillac took transport a bit bolder with the second concept—a travel drone! Yes, passengers could be transported to their destination via a drone. Car and Driver explained that neither product had a release date. THE SELF-DRIVING VEHICLE Most of the tech titans are working, testing or even unveiling some type of robotaxi or autonomous taxi service. This is probably the beginning of self-driving car evolution. While companies are creating a taxi that can transport passengers, these cars have not yet gone completely mainstream. The U.S. has one robotaxi model launched in a city, while others are still testing in specific markets. In China, one area is serviced with possibly other areas to follow. For autonomous cars to move forward and advance to the next stage, these robotaxis likely have to not only be successful but also free from accidents or hazards. Launching an ehailing service has taken time, because all the companies swerving into the market have been testing out their designs. Baidu’s Apollo robotaxi in China logged millions of miles before announcing it would be providing services to the general public. So what does this mean for mainstream autonomous vehicles? Many companies are eyeing self-driving cars, but, again, the robotaxis will likely need to be successful (and safe!) before companies may move forward with perfecting a car for the mass consumer market. Designing and launching a self-driving car to the public also will likely involve rigorous tests on the road. However, if robotaxis are a safe success, perhaps companies could pull the technology over into the consumer market. Consumer vehicles might need to integrate further safety features or other more advanced programming. The robotaxis might only be programmed for a specific area, while a consumer self-driving car would need to be able to navigate anywhere in the country. IMAGINING THE CONSUMER VEHICLE The concepts for the robotaxi look somewhat similar. Many appear to be squared-off in design. However, the robotaxi is meant to be a convenient shuttle or taxi service, while the consumer car will need to fit the design appeal of the buyer. Autonomous cars for the public could launch in one design. As the technology is updated each year, though, companies could begin to alter the body design. Maybe these cars become sleeker or more elaborate. Even though Cadillac’s autonomous ‘limo’ isn’t set to launch, this could be an interesting prototype design for a luxury autonomous vehicle. Humans won’t be behind the wheel, and this opens the door to creating a car that incorporates both luxury and entertainment features. Could there be plush pillows, luxury textile finishes like silk or velvet, or even virtual reality or augmented reality built into the entertainment system? Many automobile manufacturers are working on their own unique technological advances for their vehicles. Nissan has been working on its Invisible-to-Visible technology, and perhaps these unique components—like the possibility of allowing avatars to join the ride—could become incorporated into a self-driving concept. It also would be reasonable to assume that any car launched by a technology company—like Microsoft, Amazon, Apple or Google—would pair with the company’s other tech offerings. Siri or Alexa, for example, could be the voice of the car or at least manage aspects of the car’s technology. However, this is all presumption. THE RULES OF THE ROAD Thinking about autonomous consumer cars also ushers in the question of how these cars would be policed. How would laws apply to a car that doesn’t have a driver? Would law enforcement officers still drive standard cars, or would they simply be passengers, too? The details behind self-driving cars can become complicated. If there was an accident, how would fault be defined? Would cars communicate with each other? Would every car make its own autonomous decisions, based on the environment? Perhaps street signs, stop lights and other signage communicate with vehicles. Would the road include sensors that can provide intelligence to these smart, autonomous cars? Or would satellites overhead control everything? The future of self-driving cars is exciting, but it may be quite some time before all drivers get bumped from the driver’s seat by AI. To experience the concept of automobile autonomy, though, and to gauge how it might feel and look, perhaps visitors to the cities that are test sites for autonomous robotaxis might decide to take a driverless ride. Hailing a robotaxi might be the new tourist experience. Driving into the Future: An Update on the Autonomous Car [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Chip-Shortage.jpg] WILL THE CHIP SHORTAGE AFFECT INNOVATION? Automobile manufacturers are all trying to manage production during a microchip shortage. Some plants have had to shut down, and consumers may be faced with a limited selection on car lots. But how does the chip shortage affect development as it relates to these autonomous vehicles? Contributor Lance Eliot tackles that concern for Forbes. Eliot makes the point that autonomous vehicles would consume chips beyond the normal car, and, if the chip shortage were to continue, automakers would need to effectively estimate the amount of chips they would need. Would this even be possible? More importantly, though, and separately from Eliot’s column, could the chip shortage short-circuit innovation and tech evolution in the automotive sector? While many robotaxis are being tested in the U.S., what happens if, and when, new vehicles need to be built? Or chips need to be replaced? What about any vehicles in production or in the design phase? Ultimately, how can the industry move ahead when the chips needed to innovate are limited? While Chinese tech companies are moving on with their autonomous creations, will the U.S. fall behind? Funding may help to infuse the tech sector with the resources it needs to amp up chip production, and the U.S. could see demand and supply even out. However, it could be a while for the chip crisis to resolve. Perhaps the future of the autonomous vehicle depends on the technology that truly drives it: microchips. Self-driving cars could be the future, but until all the chips are on the table, the car might not be able to drive forward.

How the Computer Chip Shortage Affects the Automotive Market

How the Computer Chip Shortage Affects the Automotive Market

May 21, 2021

The United States has a computer chip shortage, and according to experts, it’s not likely to get much better for a few years. How has the tiny computer chip become a thorn in the side of multiple industries, including automotive? According to CNN the shortage is related to several issues, all of which have created the perfect electronic storm. Low supply has been exacerbated by Covid; shutdowns likely contributed to the availability. However, CNN also reported the automobile manufacturers cut back on buying chips…while tech sectors might have embraced them (perhaps a bit like consumers embraced toilet paper). In addition, there have been trade sanctions on some companies in China, which also could have squeezed the supply. All these factors have led to a low supply that has translated into higher costs, and the consumer may be seeing higher prices, too. As automotive companies may be grappling with a low supply of the chips they need for the now computer-dominated car mechanics, the price on the sticker might reflect this supply/demand dynamic. How the Computer Chip Shortage Affects the Automotive Market [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Is-Automotive-the-Only-Industry-Affected.jpg] IS AUTOMOTIVE THE ONLY INDUSTRY AFFECTED? While CNN noted that the issue of the shortage had primarily affected the automotive industry, now it has trickled down to other sectors. We live in a smart world, and consumers own a LOT of smart products. Those shopping for new products that are reliant on the brains of a computer—or more directly, a computer chip—might find that the prices could be higher on appliances and other goods. Even modern refrigerators feature smart screens and other advanced features that rely on computer technology. Even Fido the family dog could be affected by the chip shortage. According to The Washington Post, high-tech dog washing stations might be feeling the electrical burn of the chip shortage. Other options were procured to keep the production running on the stations, according to the Post, but those alternatives were pricier as using a different chip required changing other aspects of the mechanics. While automotive isn’t the only manufacturing sector affected, it is being hit extremely hard. Automobiles feature complicated mechanics and computerized systems, and some models are much more tech-savvy than others. Fox2 in Detroit reported that Fiat-Chrysler actually had to announce a month-long shutdown of a minivan plant because of the shortage. Other manufacturers also had to cease production. The mechanics of a vehicle are complicated, and, as Fox2 reported, some vehicles require about a dozen computer chips. The demand of the automotive industry on the computer chip is staggering. Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant produces more than 460,000 vehicles each year; divided up over each month, that’s nearly 40,000 cars…representing nearly half a million chips every month! Multiply that over all the other manufacturer’s plants across the United States, and it becomes clear why the automotive industry has been hit so hard by the shortage. WHEN WILL IT END? Consumers likely remember a lot of shortages during Covid, particularly toilet paper. While the supply eventually caught up with demand—and people stopped hoarding—it took some time for the supply chain to fully recover and match the consumer’s needs. Auto Blog published a story detailing how President Biden’s infrastructure plan may help the shortage; Biden was encouraging U.S. companies to boost production of chips nationally. A new infrastructure plan could infuse $50 billion into the industry to help grow production of the chips. Back in February (2021), Reuters reported that Biden sought $37 billion to help the microchip shortage and stimulate U.S. production; the blog also reported that he signed an Executive Order urging action related to the shortage. Unfortunately, the shortage may be continuing beyond 2021. In an interview with Lesley Stahl for CBS News, Intel’s CEO Paul Gelsinger explained that it may take some time for supply and demand to be a bit more balanced. “I think we have a couple of years until we catch up to this surging demand across every aspect of the business,” said Gelsinger in the interview with Stahl. How the Computer Chip Shortage Affects the Automotive Market [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Shopping-for-a-Car-During-the-Chip-Crisis.jpg] SHOPPING FOR A CAR DURING THE CHIP CRISIS With car production shutting down in some areas because of the chip supply issues, consumers may wonder what they may face when shopping for a car. Detroit News reported that manufacturers may produce fewer vehicles—by the millions (2.5 million!). Less supply could be an issue if more consumers are on the hunt for a new car. If demand for new vehicles exceeds supply, then prices could reflect this imbalance. While manufacturers are primarily being hit with the full force of the shortage, that little chip could chip away at consumers’ pockets too. Car prices can vary wildly already between makes and models. Consumers shopping for a new car should be mindful of the chip shortage and may need to hunt for deals. For many consumers, though, car shopping may already begin at home (especially during Covid). To prepare for a trip to the dealership and to ward off any sticker shock, consumers may want to visit dealers’ web sites to price popular vehicles and understand what rebates, deals and incentives are currently offered. Some consumers, however, may have no idea what car they want or need. In that case, online virtual or augmented reality showrooms could help to sort through many different options. Some manufacturers or dealerships offer their own virtual or augmented reality showrooms. However, RelayCars can be accessed by consumers online; RelayCars also offers both augmented reality and virtual reality apps. RelayCars’ virtual reality app can be accessed with or without a headset. The virtual reality showroom offers an array of different makes and models from many different years (beneficial for those on the hunt for a pre-owned automobile). The augmented reality app allows consumers to bring a vehicle into the user’s environment; cars can be viewed in a living room, outside or even in the garage. These experiences help consumers filter out their vehicle preferences. By viewing different vehicles in a remote or augmented reality space, consumers can gather basic information about their favorite vehicles. Then they can narrow down their wish list to a few models and begin to research prices and different promotions offered by local dealerships. HOW WILL THE CHIP CRISIS IMPACT THE NEW CAR SELECTION? Even those who use the internet and its vast resources to narrow down their vehicle choices to their most favorite models could be in for a rude awakening at the dealership. USA Today reported on the microchip crisis in April 2021 and explained that consumers might be unable to purchase the car of their dreams, because it might not be available. Instead, consumers could wind up buying a different vehicle…perhaps a model that isn’t so tech savvy. Of course, while the consumer may find their choices lacking at the dealerships, the biggest loser of the chip crisis is likely going to be the automobile industry as a whole. USA Today reported that industry anticipates seeing sales drop by $60 billion…just in the first half of 2021. For consumers who find their selection limited at the dealership, the chip crisis may force them to compromise on what they want. However, consumers also could consider buying a used car that offers the technology that they desire. USED CARS WILL BE AFFECTED, TOO! Shopping for a used car could be one way that consumers dodge the availability issues during the chip crisis. However, USA Today reported in a separate story that used car prices are rising, too. Consumers looking into the used market for an older version of their dream car might see higher prices. USA Today noted that while the prices are higher, consumers who are trading in their vehicles may see a higher trade-in value. As demand increases, supply needs to keep up. In the used car market, the suppliers are often the consumers! While the price of a new car could be higher, those with trade-ins could balance the higher price with a better trade-in value. MAKE A LIST AND HAVE A BACK-UP Shopping during the chip crisis could become a bit more complicated. While consumers could have no issue finding their favorite car, those looking for high-end features could see few options. When researching online, consumers might want to make a car wish list complete with backup options, just in case their ideal model isn’t available. Shopping the used market also could provide more options, but, again, prices could be higher because of the crisis. Consumers should be armed with information related to any dealer promotions, incentives or other deals. Of course, a higher down payment also could help lower the monthly payments (although not every consumer has the ability to come to the table with a large down payment). Eventually supply will catch up to demand and the industry will recover. However, consumers should be prepared for the chip crisis to continue for a while longer. Research car choices online before heading to a dealership, then review the dealerships web site to understand model availability. Come to the dealership prepared with backup options in case that dream car is nowhere to be found on the lot.

Is Huawei Passing Tesla on the Innovation Highway?

Is Huawei Passing Tesla on the Innovation Highway?

May 10, 2021

According to an article on Automotive News, Huawei will invest $1 billion into self-driving technology. This encompasses both research and development, and, interestingly, the company claims to already have bumped Tesla’s self-driving accomplishments. Automotive News reported that the company claims that its self-driving tech can allow cars to drive up to 1,000 kilometers unaided by humans. While Huawei’s outreach into the U.S. might be limited because of trade sanctions, the company’s executives seemed confident that it would capture enough business elsewhere to be quite successful. But is Huawei passing Tesla on the innovation highway? Will Huawei post its brand on more vehicles? We’ll dig a little deeper. THE SELF-DRIVING CAR MARKET PLAYERS To be fair, while Tesla vehicles offer some autonomous capabilities, a true self-driving car hasn’t hit markets yet. The safety features of a fully autonomous vehicle will need to be studied and tested fully before it can hit roads. News reports of a Tesla colliding with a tree drew attention to the fact that the accident featured no one in the driver’s seat. Both passengers in the car were killed. Per a story on The Verge about the crash, “It’s not yet clear whether the car had its Autopilot driver assist system activated.” The article also explained that Tesla has been clear that its autopilot isn’t self-driving; that is, drivers still need to be in control when using it. Tesla is still working on perfecting a true self-driving vehicle. However, many tech giants also have entered the highway of competition. Microsoft’s website includes a page devoted to “Accelerated vehicle innovation.” The rumor of an Apple car keeps getting sparked, too. A patent application for a smart windshield probably added to the speculation. Waymo was once known as the “Google self-driving car project.” And Amazon unveiled the Zoox “self-driving robo taxi” in December. The Zoox has three test markets: Las Vegas, Foster City (Calif.), and San Francisco. WHO IS HUAWEI? While many know Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and Tesla, the name Huawei might not be as familiar. Make no mistake, however, the company is quite the competitor in the tech sector. Huawei manufactures computers (including laptops and tablets), routers, headphones and watches. HUAWEI Health is a fitness app that tracks health, sports data, etc. And Huawei also offers mobile services like Petal Search, HUAWEI Music, and more. While the company is a tech giant in its own right, there has been something called a “Huawei ban” in the U.S., and Huawei was placed on The Entity List on May 19, 2020. What is The Entity List? The answer is found on The Bureau of Industry and Security’s website noting that the bureau “…publishes the names of certain foreign persons – including businesses, research institutions, government and private organizations, individuals, and other types of legal persons – that are subject to specific license requirements for the export, reexport and/or transfer (in-country) of specified items. These persons comprise the Entity List….” The Bureau of Industry and Security for the U.S. Department of Commerce explains the reasons for Huawei’s list inclusion in detail via an FAQ: “…on the basis of information that provided a reasonable basis to conclude that Huawei is engaged in activities that are contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests and its non-U.S. affiliates pose a significant risk of involvement in activities contrary to the national security of the United States. This information included the activities alleged in the Department of Justice’s public Superseding Indictment of Huawei, including alleged violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), conspiracy to violate IEEPA by providing prohibited financial services to Iran, and obstruction of justice in connection with the investigation of those alleged violations of U.S. sanctions….” Is Huawei Passing Tesla on the Innovation Highway? [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Autonomous-Cars.jpg] AUTONOMOUS CARS IN THE U.S. As long as Huawei stays on The Entity List, any self-driving car bearing anything related to the company’s brand likely won’t be spotted on highways. The future of autonomous vehicles in the U.S. falls to the major tech players noted above. Tesla has been vocal about its commitment to developing a fully autonomous vehicle. However, it’s clear that as this technology is being viewed as the upcoming future of the automotive sector, everyone might be trying to make the first big development. The idea of a robotaxi might be the first foray into the self-driving reality. Since the development of a self-driving car marketable to the general public would likely take much more time, these robotaxis could be the consumer’s first introduction to a car without a human behind the wheel. Waymo’s Zoox test markets are worth watching to see how these autonomous taxis fare among the public. If the Zoox (and other models, too) are successful, perhaps the shuttle or ehail services become the first sector that embraces automation. Is Huawei Passing Tesla on the Innovation Highway? [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Get-Electric.jpg] BUT FIRST…GET ELECTRIC! While the prospect of a self-driving vehicle seems like something out of a sci-fi movie, the idea will likely become a reality. Before we surrender the driver’s seat to AI, though, drivers will most likely face another new tech change in the cars they drive: electric power! The electric car is the near future. In fact, automobile manufacturers are embracing this technology. General Motors has pivoted to an all-electric design. The company has stated its intent to “…help put everyone in an EV….” Gasoline-powered motors and the reliance on fossil fuels may become obsolete as cars go electric. Gas stations may transform into electric stations. And while fossil fuel reliance won’t disappear overnight, the switch to electric may help provide a cleaner and greener planet. Consumers will still drive gas-powered motors until they fail. But when those older models fail, perhaps the only option, the only alternative will be electric. Besides the benefit of possible savings at the pump, many electric cars can go on a charge for about 250 miles. Some Tesla models, however, can push beyond 300 miles. Two Denver Tesla Club members  drove more than 600 miles on one charge. Is Huawei Passing Tesla on the Innovation Highway? [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Smart-Car.jpg] WHAT ABOUT A SMART CAR? The electric car also might pave the way for a smart car, which is already a bit of a reality. Cars have gained intelligence through the years. The vehicles of decades ago included tape decks that we once thought were so high-tech. CD players became the norm. Then when compact discs became equated to dinosaurs, vehicles had to adapt again. Now vehicles allow smartphones to connect into the entertainment console. Music on phones can stream through the vehicle. Apps can be used on the road. Text messages can be sent via voice commands. Drivers can accept phone calls without lifting a finger off the steering wheel. Yet, this technology is still evolving. Nissan’s Invisible-to-Visible technology could bring avatars into the vehicle. No one would have to drive alone, as friends could connect into the car. Drivers could receive driving instructions from a pro. Even the windows could turn a dreary day into a blue sky beautiful day. Smart cars of the future could integrate smart windshields. Apple’s patent for an augmented reality windshield hinted that it may be possible to have teleconferences in the vehicle. While this could be used in an autonomous car, what if the smart windshield is the future of the modern automobile? Wayray created the first holographic augmented reality display for vehicles. This allows drivers to see graphics overlaid atop the real environment. The display is smart in its own way in that it gives drivers additional data during their drive. Other companies are introducing their own augmented reality displays. Car and Driver reported that Panansonic could launch their augmented reality heads-up display by 2024. Panasonic’s display includes data related to obstacles up ahead, lane data, updates on directions and more. Essentially, this technology makes the drive easier. It could also eliminate a need to have a separate GPS. Car and Driver also explained that the technology adjusts as the driver moves. OTHER SMART FEATURES AI isn’t in a place to bump humans from the driver’s seat quite yet, but vehicles do have some unique intelligence features that already aid our safety on the road (beyond AR). Many current models include sensors that stop the car if a person or obstacle is in the way. Vehicles also include sensors that emit a rapid beeping sound if the car is about to collide with an obstacle. This can help minimize fender benders in parking lots, too, especially when a car is backing out of a tight parking spot. Cars also can aid in parking the vehicle. Those who haven’t mastered parallel parking can now rely on their car to help them out a bit. Not only do front and/or rear cameras make parking easier, but some cars actually maneuver the car into the parking space. This might not be completely autonomous, but it’s definitely on the road to autonomy. The future of the autonomous car is definitely close. Many leading tech players have invested in this technology, and the cars of tomorrow may be bearing tech logos as well as those of well known car brands. However, as long as Huawei remains on The Entity List, consumers in the U.S. will likely not see self-driving vehicles branded by the company on local streets and highways.