How GM is Making Driving Safer with Augmentative and Virtual Reality
November 9, 2020
Augmentative reality and virtual reality has been making waves in the automotive industry for years, and General Motors has taken the revolutionary technology one step further. The leading auto retailer is making the manufacturing, buying, and driving processes safer and more enjoyable for everyone using AR/VR capabilities.
Read on to learn how GM is using augmentative and virtual reality to reach customers and improve the driving experience.
What is Augmented Reality?
If you remember the digital explosion that was Pokemon Go, you’ve been exposed to the basic idea of augmentative reality. This technology uses digital visual elements superimposed over the user’s line of sight to enhance the real-life experience with responsive, mobilly accessible digital elements.
In the auto industry, this technology is being used to help manufacturers and drivers interact with cars using a higher level of detail and control – without blocking or impeding their line of sight.
In GM vehicles, drivers can use augmented reality from their smartphones to shop for vehicles in a higher level of detail than ever before. Additionally, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this same technology is being used to connect designers, sellers, manufacturers, and potential buyers without the need for a brick-and-mortar dealership.
This phenomenon can be made possible using mobile apps, responsive in-person demonstrations, or even reactive imagery via any internet-connected device.
What is Virtual Reality?
While augmented reality works by combining reality and a virtual landscape seamlessly, virtual reality involves a completely manufactured digital environment that is independent from the real world.
Virtual reality technology often uses auxiliary equipment, such as sensory-cancelling headsets, to remove the user from reality in order to transport them to a digitally created environment. This can be used to make video games more realistic, or to improve the accuracy of training and educational programs.
In the automotive industry, car makers and technicians can test vehicles virtually without the need for a full outdoor course. This has great potential to improve safety, while saving money by lowering overhead and reducing operational costs for the manufacturer.
Virtual reality is also being used by leading automakers to improve the passenger experience by providing them with safe, fully immersive entertainment. Everyone in the vehicle (with the exception of who’s in the driver’s seat) can dive into realistic games, videos, and even music by removing themselves from the “real world.” Passengers can truly enter a completely digital landscape using connected headsets, glasses, or even their mobile phone.
Augmentative Reality in the Manufacturing Process
Leading car brands like GM are using augmented reality to save money, increase safety, and streamline processes across the entire manufacturing process. This technology has made it easier than ever before for remote employees, onsite employees, and digital elements to communicate from any physical location.
Allowing technicians to work on realistic digital models using augmented reality has reduced costs associated with operations by giving remote employees even more agency and control. This lowers the amount car retailers need to spend on office space, as well as equipment required for physical models as opposed to digital renders.
Augmented reality has greatly improved the auto manufacturing process in three key ways.
Vehicle safety and operational testing is easily the most critical part in the manufacturing process. Since augmented reality superimposes digital elements over actual sensor points and physical cues, workers don’t need to use physical test vehicles or drive tracks.
Additionally, digital renders can be created to show how the car can perform in different terrains and driving conditions. Eliminating the need to test physical vehicle models in dangerous environments makes the process accurate, but safer, for everyone involved.
Traditionally, the auto manufacturing process has been expensive and variable, leading to a dramatic shift in value and innovation across the industry.
Working in a secure digital environment makes it easier to determine whether or not employees are staying on task, while reducing the amount of time workers spend on repetitive, rote tasks.
Augmented reality systems are able to track a dynamic production schedule, while controlling machines remotely to increase the amount of time workers are able to spend on creative engineering and tasks that require human innovation.
Additionally, AR-enabled tools can provide assistance and training in the absence of a human manager or educator. This reduces company spend on employment costs, while giving each worker control over their learning speed and style.
On demand digital assistance, corporate training resources, and communication tools give workers more power to utilize their unique skills to help the company grow as a whole.
Social distancing measures have largely limited workers’ ability to collaborate efficiently. Augmented reality has made it easier than ever for technicians, designers, and retailers to collaborate effectively on new models.
By building and connecting individual parts digitally, technicians have more control than ever on the models they’re working on. Augmented reality gives them the ability to zoom into small details, manipulate the positioning of individual parts and features, and test functionalities virtually using responsive visual elements.
How is AR/VR Improving Driver Safety?
How many times have you taken your eyes off the road to check your GPS navigation or find driving directions? Just a few seconds with your attention off the road is all it takes for a devastating accident to change (or take) your life. Augmented reality gives drivers a way to see upcoming accident alerts, road construction, blockages, and even nearby businesses without taking their view off of their windshield.
Augmented reality is also changing in-car entertainment for the better. Drivers no longer need to distract themselves with changing the radio station or adjusting the temperature in the vehicle.
Now, augmented reality shows all of these features in the driver’s natural line of sight using visual projections that appear on the road. Additionally, voice-controlled technology makes it easier than ever for driver’s to enjoy a fully hands-free experience.
Although we all need to pass a test to get a driver’s license, it’s no surprise that many drivers forget the rules of the road over time. Auto manufacturers like GM have developed realistic road simulators using virtual reality to help drivers sharpen their real-life skills, without the real-life risk.
Whether it’s being used in the road or off the street, augmented and virtual reality technology has reduced driver risk significantly in just a few short years.
What is a Virtual Reality Showroom?
The Coronavirus has changed the way Americans interact with commercial brands in a major way, and the auto industry has responded by increasing their virtual shopping tools to boost sales. General Motors is just one of the brands that has created digital showrooms with virtual and augmented reality to allow prospective buyers to shop safely from home.
A virtual showroom is essentially what it sounds like. Using their desktop or mobile device, shoppers can tour all of the retailer’s inventory using 360-degree product photography and interactive digital renders of their prospective purchase.
Fewer automotive shoppers are heading to the dealership, and this has opened up a major opportunity for AR/VR tech to enter the market. Now, buyers can complete the entire buying process in just a few minutes – from their initial research period to applying for financing.
As more businesses respond to the changes caused by the ongoing pandemic, augmentative and virtual reality is becoming integrated into the showrooms of large and small companies across the auto industry.
Using a virtual showroom eliminates the need for dealers to keep a vast physical inventory on site, dramatically cutting overhead costs and the need for a large commercial space.
Virtual and Augmentative Reality Driving Future Product Development
When it comes to product innovation, AR/VR tech has helped developers perfect upcoming vehicle models in far less time. GM is using augmentative and virtual reality capabilities to fine tune their products and provide buyers with an even more reliable shopping (and driving) experience.
Before digitally rendered models eliminated the need for physical product testing, bugs had to be predominately addressed with trial and error. Multiple physical testing trials and recalls could be necessary to improve the car’s features, from aesthetic changes to safety measures.
Now, cars are hitting the marketplace with fewer design and functionality flaws because they’ll be released after rigorous virtual testing and prototype development. Instead of building costly prototypes to make these adjustments, technicians can work on an infinite number of virtual models until the product meets set specifications.
Additionally, virtual reality tools allow designers and technicians to immerse themselves in their work environments without spending time in an expensive lab or warehouse.
Augmentative and virtual reality technology is making waves across a wide variety of industries, but the automotive sphere is largely paving the way. GM is using this growing tech system to keep their staff, and buyers, safer than ever before while also reducing costs and boosting value for the corporation as a whole.
Immersive media is likely to become the next major medium for consumers and companies to interact and communicate, no matter their location. Take a closer look at how high-quality automotive images and responsive mobile applications are helping auto shoppers and manufacturers go through each transaction with more safety and ease.
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