Nissan Shifts to Digital to Adjust to Post-Pandemic World
February 8, 2021
The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has completely disrupted the global economy. The economic effects of the pandemic can be felt in nearly every sector, including the automotive industry. In this industry, the global health crisis has led to supply chain interruptions, assembly plant closures, production delays, and ultimately, lower automotive sales. But now that vaccines are being distributed, the automotive industry must focus on planning for a post-pandemic world. One automotive manufacturer that is already adapting to the changing times is Nissan. It was recently reported that Nissan informed its board that the company was building a “complete, end-to-end digital journey” that would allow automotive consumers to purchase vehicles online. What will this shopping experience look like? How will consumers respond? Here’s what you need to know about Nissan’s bold shift in strategy: THE EVOLUTION OF THE AUTOMOTIVE CONSUMER’S BUYING JOURNEY The way in which the average automotive consumer shops for a vehicle has drastically changed over the years. In the past, consumers who were interested in purchasing a new vehicle started their buying journey by visiting local dealerships. During these visits, consumers would learn about different vehicles, compare and contrast models, ask questions, take test drives, and discuss pricing and financing. They worked one-on-one with sales representatives at local dealerships and had the opportunity to explore vehicles in person. They wouldn’t limit themselves to one dealership, either. The average automotive consumer used to visit five dealerships before making a purchase decision. Visiting multiple dealerships would help consumers gather as much information as possible before deciding which vehicle to purchase. The entire buying journey—from conducting research to completing the transaction—took place inside local dealerships. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Nissan-Shifts-to-Digital2.jpg] But now, times have changed. Today’s automotive consumers typically start their buying journey online, where they conduct research, compare and contrast models, and look up information on local dealerships. In fact, Google estimates that twice as many automotive consumers start the car buying process online instead of in a dealership. They complete the information gathering stage of the buying process online, so they don’t need to visit as many dealerships before making a purchase decision. Now, the average consumer only visits two dealerships before purchasing a vehicle. Even when today’s consumers visit dealerships, they use their smartphones to connect to the internet for real-time advice and information. As they walk through the showroom, they may look up prices at other dealerships located nearby to make sure they are getting the best deal. This means the buying journey for the average automotive consumer now occurs in two places: online and in dealerships. HOW COVID-19 AFFECTED THE AUTOMOTIVE CONSUMER’S BUYING JOURNEY The automotive consumer’s buying journey shifted further into the digital world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is primarily because many consumers are still hesitant to visit automotive dealerships in person due to the risk of contracting COVID-19. These concerns have led to a rise in demand for online vehicle sales. McKinsey recently surveyed automotive consumers on their attitudes toward shopping for and buying a new vehicle. Forty-five percent of U.S. consumers surveyed said that they purchased their last vehicle in-person at a dealership. But only 35% of U.S. consumers surveyed say that they plan on purchasing their next vehicle in-person at a dealership. Nissan Shifts to Digital to Adjust to Post-Pandemic World [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Nissan-Shifts-to-Digital3.jpg] The survey revealed that 38% of U.S. consumers plan on purchasing their next vehicle via an app or website. Another 27% of these consumers intend on completing their purchase over the phone or through email. Based on this data, it is clear that automotive consumers prefer shopping online for a vehicle over shopping for a vehicle at a dealership. This preference for online vehicle sales was strongest among the youngest consumers surveyed. Less than one-third of these consumers want to buy a vehicle in-person at a dealership. Instead, this demographic would like to complete the entire process either online, over the phone, or via email. This results of this survey also revealed that today’s consumers expect automotive companies to offer a digital buying experience that is equivalent to the in-person buying experience. For example, the respondents showed a very strong interest in contactless services such as virtual test drives and home car deliveries. About half of the respondents even indicated that they were willing to pay more for these services in order to avoid making a trip to a dealership. The fact that these consumers are willing to pay more for a positive digital buying experience shows how strongly they feel about this issue. HOW IS NISSAN RESPONDING TO THE SHIFT IN CONSUMER BEHAVIOR? The message from consumers couldn’t be clearer: they want the option to buy a vehicle online. At least one automotive manufacturer is listening to these consumers. During a board meeting last year, a board member asked Nissan’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Ashwani Gupta what the company was planning on doing to address consumers’ hesitancy to visit showrooms in-person. Gupta informed the board that the company was in the process of creating a “complete, end-to-end digital journey” for consumers who were interested in purchasing a vehicle online. He explained that this would allow consumers to conduct research, compare models, schedule at-home test drives in vehicles delivered directly from a local dealership, and complete their purchase all from the comfort of their home. In other words, it would eliminate the need to visit a Nissan dealership in person to purchase a vehicle. Gupta acknowledged that the decision to create this digital buying experience was made with the post-pandemic world in mind. He explained that the shift in consumer behavior caused by the pandemic will not disappear once the global health crisis has been resolved. Instead, he believes that they will become permanent, meaning consumers will continue to prefer shopping online for vehicles even when it is safe to visit dealerships in person. This doesn’t mean that consumers won’t be able to purchase a Nissan vehicle in-person at a dealership. The manufacturer will still offer in-person dealership sales, but now consumers will also have the option of purchasing a vehicle online if that’s what they prefer. Nissan Shifts to Digital to Adjust to Post-Pandemic World [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Nissan-Shifts-to-Digital.jpg] THE BENEFITS OF CREATING A DIGITAL SHOPPING EXPERIENCE FOR AUTOMOTIVE CONSUMERS Nissan could benefit from creating a digital shopping experience for automotive consumers in a number of ways. The most obvious benefit is that this digital shopping experience will allow Nissan to target consumers who prefer shopping online as opposed to at a dealership. There are still a lot of automotive manufacturers who don’t offer online sales, so for now, Nissan has the opportunity to sell to these consumers without much competition. The shift to online sales also benefits Nissan from a profitability angle, according to two sources who spoke to the media. These sources revealed that building this digital platform would drastically reduce Nissan’s operational and marketing expenses. It would also give the automotive manufacturer the chance to gather more data on consumers who are shopping for vehicles online. This data could help Nissan gain a deeper understanding of their target audience so they can finetune their marketing strategies to better meet these consumers’ needs in the future. Shifting to online sales also ensures that Nissan customers won’t be limited to purchasing the vehicles that are in-stock at their local dealership. The automotive manufacturer will allow online customers to search inventories from all Nissan stories in a specific area. Since online customers won’t be limited to searching through a single store’s inventory, they will have a better chance at finding the vehicle they want. THE CHALLENGES OF CREATING A DIGITAL SHOPPING EXPERIENCE FOR AUTOMOTIVE CONSUMERS There are certainly benefits to launching a new digital shopping experience for automotive consumers. But Nissan will also face a number of challenges when implementing this new strategy. Nissan will likely face some resistance from franchise dealers, who typically rely on the standard showroom strategy to sell to automotive consumers. Moving to the digital world—in addition to offering contactless services for digital consumers—is a big jump for these dealers. Nissan must be willing to work closely with them to help them see the benefits in this strategy shift and successfully adjust to the changes. However, sales representatives typically work on commission, so they may view this shift to digital sales as a threat to their livelihoods since it may lead to fewer in-person sales. Nissan must also be willing to invest in the technologies to build this digital platform for consumers. Certain technologies, such as virtual reality and augmented reality, can greatly enhance the online shopping experience for consumers. For example, virtual reality technology can provide consumers with the opportunity to take virtual test drives. Augmented reality, on the other hand, can be used to help consumers explore the interior and exterior of a vehicle without ever leaving their home. Investing in these technologies could help Nissan stand out among other competitors who are also shifting to digital sales. There’s no question that digital sales will play an important role in the future of the automotive industry. Even though shifting to digital sales presents certain challenges, it’s safe to say that many other automotive manufacturers will follow Nissan’s lead to create a unique digital buying experience for their consumers. This shift to the digital world doesn’t spell death for the automotive dealership. But dealers must work with manufacturers to understand their new role in the ever changing automotive industry.
How Automotive Brands are Using Virtual Reality to Speed Up Product Development
February 5, 2021
Many consumers have long associated the Hummer brand with not-so-sustainable consumption. But, this auto manufacturer is changing the market’s approach to electric vehicles and technology in one go. With the help of virtual reality technology, General Motors has developed the 2022 GMC Hummer EV in a short amount of time. Since the COVID-19 pandemic sent much of the country’s commercial sphere into their homes, automakers took extraordinary measures to keep all of their staff, partners, and consumers connected. Following Hummer’s development of remote manufacturing for their line of electric vehicles, other automotive brands are following this trend. Now, VR technology has become commonplace in the work areas AND consumer spaces throughout the car sales industry. Read on to learn more about the ways automakers are using virtual reality to improve the speed, cost-efficiency, and overall seamlessness of the manufacturing process. How Automotive Brands are Using Virtual Reality to Speed Up Product Development [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Speed-Up-Product-Development2.jpg] VIRTUAL REALITY FOR AUTOMOTIVE DEVELOPMENT When the world is faced with a collective challenge, some of the best innovation can be born. Virtual reality technology, which was previously almost exclusively for gaming, is now being used to help medical professionals, manufacturers, and other physical trades stay in operation. The industry has been using VR and AR technology in automotive to improve internal processes for years, but leading brands are taking their remote connectivity to a whole new level in 2021 and beyond. GM is just one of the retailers that plan to use this system for primary testing, protypring, and supply chain management in the future. As its own industry, virtual reality within the automotive market is predicted to reach upwards of $14.7 million by the year 2027. This steep incline is promoting core companies in these interconnected spheres to prioritize virtual product development and immersive media throughout the customer experience. Instead of relying on physical models and prototypes to work through operational and exterior tests, digital models are more cost effective and take less time to complete. In fact, using VR during the car development process has helped the Hummer EV production line shave hours (adding up to months) from the development plan. Designing visual components and aesthetic properties is limitless using a tablet in an integrated AR/VR enabled environment. Drawing, sculpting, painting, and refinishing work can be completed with a few pieces of equipment and the user’s imagination. Brainstorming between multiple individuals can be consolidated in a virtual chat room or channel, and the innovation process doesn’t have to stop for a closed office, inclement weather, and other external factors. Forgoing clay busts and traditional design methods allows automakers to focus their primary efforts toward essential aspects of the vehicle’s operation, aesthetic, and engineering. Additionally, moving the workline online allows engineers and technicians to resume work from any properly equipped home office. Using VR headsets and interactive digital whiteboards that are scalable to the size of their work, it’s now possible for technicians to build an entire car without ever stepping foot onto company grounds. How Automotive Brands are Using Virtual Reality to Speed Up Product Development [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Speed-Up-Product-Development3.jpg] GROWTH OF ELECTRIC VEHICLE MARKET DURING COVID-19 While COVID-19 caused a severe market downturn in 2020, the electric vehicle industry still achieved high sales as a result of this remote tech innovation. Compared to the 2.5% market share we saw in the EV market in 2019, the past fiscal year was promising for the growing e-car industry. By streamlining operations across the auto industry workforce and factory spheres, the post-pandemic car sales market is expected to climb to 4.18 million units by next year. The electric car sector is no different, and the addition of thousands of EV charging stations across the country has helped to speed up this growth. Additionally, owning an e-car is more affordable than ever – which pairs well with the recent uptick in interest regarding global sustainability. The rapid increase in electric vehicle adoption across the world prompted auto brands to utilize production methods that maximize time, resources, and costs during a pandemic. While something as simple as access to personal protective equipment can halt the production line, providing creators and professionals with a way to resume operations safely from home played a major role in the success of this growing sphere. United States government officials have also played a part in the expansion of the electric vehicle market, largely with the previous two stimulus packages. The amount of EV charging stations across the country reached more than 70,000 units last year, which also contributed to the collective consumer interest in electric vehicles. To a lesser extent, recent changes in our societal structure have created a barrier between eco-friendly commuters and public transportation. COVID-19 has prompted more consumers to invest in their own personal vehicle, and EV brands are serving as a compromise for those who are moving away from the crowded bus or train. COST-SAVING BENEFITS OF VR IN CAR MANUFACTURING AND SALES Using VR in the car manufacturing industry has created more than a simple solution for saving time during the production process. This is also an effective way for auto retailers to save money on testing, vehicle prototyping, redesigns, rendering, and more. Virtual reality has come a long way from the clunky headset-and-handset combos of previous years. Using sophisticated AI-enabled motion and behavioral tracking, virtual reality systems can completely recreate just about any type of work environment you can think of. Traditional car manufacturing supply chains often require multiple phases of physical modeling and restructuring, adding up to millions of dollars in operational and material costs. Incorporating VR in business practices can drastically reduce the amount of physical equipment and collateral necessary to get the job done. Virtual product development provides each technician with unlimited trials and materials in a fully digital environment. Instead of using clay and polymer modeling, in addition to fully equipped sample vehicles, this virtual solution can be endlessly modified without incurring extra costs. Additionally, using VR as a method for product testing is safer than using physical prototypes on a real-life test course. But, the perks don’t stop once the car is on the market. Not only can the use of AR/VR tech in immersive showrooming boost sales, but this type of sales and marketing strategy has the potential to completely revolutionize a growing auto brand. Customers can interact with detailed elements of the vehicle digitally, and customize their selection in real time. Utilizing virtual reality in the sales experience is a fast and affordable way to generate customer loyalty and increase conversions. The combination of these benefits adds up to a 10% to 15% boost in annual savings for leading auto manufacturers. How Automotive Brands are Using Virtual Reality to Speed Up Product Development [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Speed-Up-Product-Development.jpg]Futuristic interface of autonomous car. Graphical user interface. Head up display. CONSUMER USE OF VR IN ELECTRIC VEHICLES Virtual reality is being used to create new vehicles, and it’s also being built into the driver’s seat of many up-and-coming electric models. Just like online consumers are gaining an interest in immersive reality on social media, those same demographics are looking for more ways to integrate interactive media into their daily lives. Leading automakers like General Motors incorporate virtual and augmented reality experiences for their consumers, as well as their staff. Virtual reality technology allows drivers and passengers to enjoy a higher level of control over their method of transportation. The advent of self-driving capabilities have opened this market even wider, taking hands-free entertainment to a whole new level. Navigation screens are getting wider, and safer line-of-sight projections are taking the place of traditional dashboard displays. Voice-enabled mobile assistance that syncs to your mobile devices can allow you to access your calls, texts, and even social media feeds without taking your attention from the road. Additionally, this same technology can make it easier for driver’s to predict and circumvent dangerous situations such as: * Road blocks * Traffic jams * Collisions * Natural disasters * Pedestrians * Updated routes and construction sites Virtual reality technology is not only making the driving experience more fun, but it’s also helping everyone inside and outside of the car stay safe and out of harm’s way. From start to finish, VR systems have a heavy hand in the electric vehicle market – and that change is showing no signs of slowing down. Consumers are becoming accustomed to the increased ease of use, mobile connectivity, and overall experience of a VR-equipped cab. Additionally, auto brands are taking the opportunity to tap into this growing consumer market while reducing their own operational costs simultaneously. By recreating virtually any environment regardless of the amount of space allotted, automakers meet consumer demand in a massive wave. This lightning-speed development of this corner of the market has the potential to grow exponentially as VR technology continues to expand. If you’re looking into buying or leasing an electric vehicle in the next year, you’ll be sure to see these changes throughout the shopping, production, sales, and even ownership processes
Tech Features are Shifting How We Drive
February 3, 2021
The daily drive doesn’t look anything like it did a few decades ago. Cars have relied on computer technology for years, as these chips began to serve as a mechanical brain for the automobile. However, digital has wired beyond the hood and served to elevate the entertainment value and joy of the driving experience. Tech features are shifting how we drive. Gone are the days of plugging a portable compact disc player into the lighter. Or popping a cassette into the standard radio. Now we use phones to stream music. And the vehicle can sync to devices and send messages or make calls. Here’s a look at the digital features that enhance the driving experience and what may come next. AUGMENTED REALITY Learning to drive back in the ‘80s and ‘90s meant that young drivers had to master backing into parking spaces and parallel parking. Drivers looked over their shoulders to pinpoint their proximity to other vehicles. The turning radius had to be just right to angle into the parking spot between cones or two cars. For some drivers, these lessons were simple. Years later, some still avoid the dreaded parallel parking space. Or maybe they don’t need to avoid anything! If drivers who are not-so-savvy with their parking still struggle, they may rely on augmented reality features built into their vehicles. Back-up cameras and cameras positioned in the front end of the vehicle provide an eagle-eye view of every vantage point while navigating tight parking spaces. Instead of turning to look behind them and then checking the front end, drivers now can just look at their camera screens. These screens show the actual environment (e.g. parking space) and include digitized grid lines that illustrate the turning radius of the vehicle. These features allow the driver to see the exact positioning of the vehicle. Even better? Some newer models are even equipped with automatic parking features. The driver doesn’t have to do anything! The car’s sensors judge the proximity of other vehicles and understand exactly how to navigate the space. Worried that the vehicle is too close to another vehicle while parking? Today’s models also may have warning sounds that signal when an obstacle is about to be hit. Typically, these signals emit rapid beeps to alert the driver to stop. HIGH-TECH ENTERTAINMENT FEATURES Backup and front-end cameras may help drivers reduce accidents and fender benders, allowing the driving experience (and especially the parking experience) to be a bit less stressful. However, advanced technology features wire into the entertainment hub of the vehicle, adding more ways for the driver to relax and enjoy the commute. As the smartphone has become the standard communication device for many, the automobile industry has equipped many vehicle models to sync to this ubiquitous technology. The entertainment hub in the car is no longer just a tape deck, radio, or CD player. That’s prehistoric! Today’s models may be fully decked, dressed to the digital nines! Stereos feature digital touch screens and USB ports that allow devices to connect to the entertainment console of the vehicle. These smart entertainment systems allow drivers to stream music, send/receive phone calls or even send text messages…hands-free. Entertainment features in newer vehicles also serve to make long road trips much more enjoyable for both kids…and parents. While mom and dad can stream music or listen to podcasts, some vehicles also feature television screens in the back seats, allowing children to watch their favorite movies or shows. The days of playing “I Spy” or having children bring books or portable board games have been displaced by the wired world of technology. Kids also can plug in their own phones or tablets right in the backseat! Tech Features are Shifting How We Drive [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Tech-Features-are-Shifting2.jpg] TECHNOLOGY SIMPLIFIES THE HANDHELD MAP, TOO Long road trips or family vacations cross-country also once relied on handheld maps. Those large, bulky, and very difficult to refold handheld maps were the standard for navigating the roads. However, they were also quite cumbersome, and, if the passenger wasn’t adept at reading all those lines of highways, streets, and landmarks, also might have led to a few drivers heading in the wrong direction. As smartphones can plug into the entertainment console of the vehicle, drivers also can utilize the GPS features in smartphones to help them navigate new cities or to drive from one destination to another. Instead of asking the passenger to provide step by step directions, the GPS assistant verbally provides commands that prompt the driver about where to turn next. Or when the next exit is approaching. These GPS functions may reduce the stress that drivers feel when trying to navigate a new city and may empower less adventurous drivers to explore unfamiliar areas…or even pursue a long road trip. When the fear of getting lost is minimized, the driving experience can become a much more relaxing adventure. Tech Features are Shifting How We Drive [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Tech-Features-are-Shifting.jpg] THE FUTURE OF VEHICLE TECHNOLOGY While cameras and entertainment hubs add to the safety and enjoyment of the drive time, these features are ever-evolving. The future of in-vehicle technology may depend on the manufacturer and its own enterprising ingenuity. Mercedes-Benz recently made the news with the announcement of its MBUX Hyperscreen. This massive digital hub is equipped with artificial intelligence (AI). Per Mercedes-Benz “…with software capable of learning, the display, and operating concept adapts completely to its user and makes personalized suggestions for numerous infotainment, comfort and vehicle functions.” This could represent the future of what digital entertainment looks like within the vehicle. Will other manufacturers create their own concept, with the aid of AI? Perhaps the real future of digitized technology within the automotive sector is, in fact, the self-driving car. Fully autonomous, the vehicle would provide hands-free driving experiences and take the driver into the passenger seat. There are numerous companies looking to delve into this sector, and the future could very much lead to a world where no one drives. How would a self-driving car take shape? Again, the model—including design and features—may depend on the manufacturer. Perhaps the driver would still sit in the driver’s seat but set the vehicle to self-navigate. Perhaps there is no driver’s seat. Maybe the steering wheel even becomes obsolete? As these vehicles are developed and prototypes are designed, the safety features would have to be designed flawlessly, ensuring no room for error. Would steering wheels be provided in case of a malfunction and the driver needs to self-navigate? The questions related to the actual mechanics and design of these vehicles is very much up in the air. Eventually, vehicles could include avatars that serve as virtual passengers. These virtual companions are already in development; Nissan’s Invisible-to-Visible Technology is developing a way for avatars to join the drive via the “Metaverse.” These virtual friends or family could ensure that solo drivers don’t feel so lonely during a long drive. Nissan’s developing technology also would allow for windows to project a blue sky on windows during dreary days. Rolls Royce has already included its own captivating illusion of the sky, however. Certain models include fiber-optic stars that light up the ceiling of the vehicle, creating a starry ambiance. This feature can be customized, too…including the colors of the stars. ENJOYING THE CURRENT TECH Many drivers might not fully appreciate or understand the features and benefits of the technology offered in their vehicles. This is where the user experience might be hindered. Touch-screen radios are simple, but there could be more beyond that digital screen. Some buyers might have been overwhelmed when all the features and benefits of their car were explained upon purchase, but it’s important to understand all that the vehicle has to offer. The dashboard often contains numerous screens that provide the vehicle’s mechanical data, but navigating these screens might take a bit of training. For drivers who recently invested in a new vehicle that offers all the latest and greatest digital features, it may take a while to navigate and become familiar with all the options and features. This is where the vehicle’s handbook becomes a valuable tool. Sales professionals at dealerships may spend hours each day going over all the mechanics and cool entertainment features, but new drivers may find this information going in one ear and out the other. When in doubt about any feature or how to access a tech function, check out the handbook. While the guide was once just a resource for simple functions (like how to turn off the oil light), now these thick books may be the trusted resource on how to figure out all the latest and greatest tech features. While the future may point to highways filled with traffic driven autonomously by AI, the self-driving car is still in development. However, technology is wired throughout vehicles, enhancing safety features and entertainment options. Paper maps are often tossed aside for the digital GPS functions that phones can sync into the car’s display. Backup and front-end cameras simplify the task of parking, perhaps minimizing the risk for fender benders. And, of course, tablets and smartphones sync into the vehicle to allow drivers to stream music and make calls (hands-free). Even kids can enjoy the high-tech offerings of new vehicles, as they watch movies in the back seat via video screens and plug in their own devices. Manufacturers like Nissan are working on more advanced technological features that could allow for avatars to join the ride. The future may be autonomous, but the present is, without a doubt, high-tech.
Virtual Reality May Make Remote Collaboration Easier
February 1, 2021
There are many benefits to working remotely. Remote employees are able to work more flexible schedules and avoid lengthy commutes to the office. Employers, on the other hand, can reduce overhead costs and boost employee morale by giving employees the option to work remotely. Of course, there are some drawbacks to remote work as well. But it is up to employers to identify and address these challenges to ensure their remote employees are successful. Fortunately, the results of a new study indicate that virtual reality technology could be the solution to one common remote work challenge. Here’s what employers need to know: THE CURRENT STATE OF REMOTE WORK Remote work has become increasingly popular over the last several years. But in 2020, there was an unprecedented surge in remote work caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. A recent survey revealed that one-third of the U.S. workforce is now working remotely all the time, and one-quarter of the U.S. workforce is working remotely sometimes. Participants who responded that they sometimes work remotely spend an average of 11.9 days per month working from home. In other words, even those who only “sometimes” work remotely are spending about half of their workdays every month working from home. The growing popularity of remote work may have been sparked by the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean this trend will disappear once the coronavirus crisis has been resolved. Even employers that were hesitant to allow their employees to work remotely have come to embrace it. In fact, 83% of companies believe that the shift to remote work has been a success. Furthermore, fewer than one in five executives say they want to return to working out of the office five days a week once the pandemic is over. Based on this data, it’s clear that remote work is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Because remote work will continue in some form even after the COVID-19 crisis is over, it’s important for employers to make an effort to help their employees overcome these challenges. Remote Collaboration [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Remote-Collaboration-1.jpg] WHAT ARE COMMON REMOTE COLLABORATION CHALLENGES? Most remote workers rely on video call platforms such as Zoom or Skype to collaborate with one another on various projects and tasks. But the results of a new study revealed that remote workers are becoming increasingly frustrated and unhappy with video calls. HTC Vive recently surveyed employees in the United Kingdom to learn more about the challenges that they face when working remotely. One-third of survey respondents reported that they were exhausted as a result of countless hours of video calls. Nearly half of those surveyed also admitted that they would prefer meeting face-to-face with co-workers instead of meeting on a video call. Another survey revealed that 45% of remote workers reported attending more meetings while working from home than when in the office. This statistic highlights how much time remote workers are spending on video calls with co-workers, which could explain their growing frustration. Even though these results reveal that remote workers desire more face-to-face interaction, it’s unlikely that they will get their wish granted any time soon. Returning to the office—or meeting co-workers in other locations—is still too risky due to the threat of contracting COVID-19. Even after the pandemic is over, employers may choose to continue remote work, so employees may need to adapt to working remotely all the time or some of the time. Face-to-face interaction might be out of the question for now, but there is another way to help remote workers avoid video call fatigue while also giving them the personal interaction they desire. Some experts believe that virtual reality technology could be the solution to this problem. Remote Collaboration [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Remote-Collaboration-2.jpg] HOW REMOTE WORKERS CAN USE VIRTUAL REALITY TECHNOLOGY The term virtual reality refers to the technology that is used to transport users to a computer-generated simulated environment. Users aren’t simply viewing the simulated environment on a screen in front of them. Instead, users are fully immersed in the simulated world and able to interact with various elements of this virtual environment. This technology has been used in the gaming industry for years, but it has many other applications as well. Now, experts are starting to see the value of using virtual reality technology to make the remote work experience easier for employees. For example, virtual reality technology could help employers address remote workers’ discontent with video calls. Instead of using Zoom or Skype to meet via video call, employers could allow their remote workers to host virtual meetings powered by virtual reality technology. Employees could transport themselves to a simulated environment by putting on a virtual reality headset. Using this headset, employees would be able to meet with one another in a virtual meeting room, which could be designed to look exactly like a traditional meeting room in a corporate office. The technology would make them feel like they were actually inside a meeting room rather than sitting at their home in front of a computer screen. Each attendee could take a seat at a virtual table inside the room. They could take a look around the room to see other attendees—just like they would if they were meeting in-person. Then, they could conduct a virtual meeting in the same way that they would conduct an in-person meeting. They could even take notes on a virtual whiteboard located in the front of the virtual meeting room. Remote Collaboration [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Remote-Collaboration-3.jpg] WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF USING VIRTUAL REALITY TECHNOLOGY FOR REMOTE WORK? There are a number of benefits to allowing remote workers to use virtual reality technology to attend virtual meetings. Attending a virtual meeting is not exactly the same as attending an in-person meeting. However, it’s close enough to the real thing to satisfy remote workers’ desire for more face-to-face interaction with their co-workers. In a virtual meeting, they will be able to see and interact with virtual representations of their co-workers, which will make it seem as if they are actually meeting with their co-workers in-person. This will help remote workers feel more connected to their co-workers even when they are working far apart. Using this technology could also lead to better collaboration among remote workers. A study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that employees are more connected to content and focused when using virtual technology as opposed to other types of technology. Virtual reality creates an environment that is more conducive to collaboration. Only one person can speak at a time on video calls, but this isn’t the case in a virtual meeting. Employees won’t need to worry about muting and unmuting themselves whenever they need to talk. Instead, they can simply speak up when they have something to say, just like they would in a real in-person meeting. Plus, employees won’t need to get dressed to make themselves presentable for a video call. In a virtual meeting, attendees will only be able to see virtual representations of each other, so it doesn’t matter if employees stay in their pajamas all day. Attending a virtual meeting can also benefit remote workers who feel like they are trapped at home. Even though they aren’t physically leaving their home, attending a virtual meeting will make them feel as if they were in a new environment. These are some of the many reasons why employers should consider utilizing this technology to make remote workers’ lives easier. WHAT ARE THE BARRIERS TO THE ADOPTION OF VIRTUAL REALITY TECHNOLOGY? Using virtual reality to help remote workers collaborate may seem like a no-brainer, but there are some barriers that could stand in the way of the widespread adoption of this technology. First, there is still a limited understanding of how this technology works and more importantly, how it could be used to benefit remote work collaboration. This technology has been around for a long time, but many people are still unfamiliar with it. Those that are familiar with it often assume that it is only used in the gaming industry, which is far from the truth. As a result, it could be difficult to get decision-makers on board with the idea of adopting this technology. The cost of this technology could also prevent widespread adoption. Employers who want to utilize this technology for virtual meetings must be willing to invest in virtual reality headsets for their employees. They must also be willing to invest in building a platform that allows their remote workers to meet virtually in a secure environment. Creating a secure environment is always important, but it’s crucial if employees are going to discuss sensitive company information during these virtual meetings. Another barrier is the lack of awareness of remote work challenges among employers. Some employers have not taken the time to understand what challenges their employees are dealing with in a remote work environment. If they don’t understand these unique challenges, they won’t be motivated to address them with virtual reality technology. These are serious barriers that could prevent the widespread adoption of virtual reality technology. However, if experts are correct in predicting that remote work is here to stay, companies may need to break down these barriers in order to use virtual reality technology to make remote work easier for their employees.
Why and How Virtual Reality is Growing?
January 29, 2021
Virtual reality is essentially a simulation of sorts. It gives people the very realistic impression that they are in a certain simulated scenario, such as riding a roller coaster or driving a car. They can even interact with this simulated world in different ways depending on the technology that’s in use. Headsets, special gloves, and other sensor-filled devices are common examples. While this type of technology, to a lesser degree, has actually been around and talked about for quite some time, it’s only recently that it’s had a major surge in popularity. The question many people have, though, is why and how? The answer is multi-faceted and says a lot about the modern world. MOBILE-BASED OPTIONS When the concept of virtual reality was first developed, it wasn’t in a very practical way. Any type of truly impressive virtual reality experience would cost people a lot of money and would require the use of very complex technology, most of which was difficult to get and impossible to house, at least for the average person. But just as computers went from huge machines to tiny things people hold in their hands and carry everywhere, virtual reality has become more mainstream and accessible in recent years. A major reason for this is how easy it is to integrate VR Into mobile devices, like Smartphones and tablets, which just about every person has. With this technology more accessible than ever before, it’s no surprise that VR has seen a rise in popularity . . . one that shows no signs of slowing down. RESEARCH FROM ALL THE RIGHT PEOPLE Not only is virtual reality becoming more accessible for the average person, but it’s also being backed by more people and, even more importantly, by all the right people. While VR was once very much a niche market, serious investors with major power have started to see its value and potential for use in video games, travel, entertainment, and so much more. For this reason, Google and other leading organizations have started to research and invest in VR technology. This lends credibility to the technology and also opens up an entire world of new possibilities. In fact, there’s a good chance that some of those top-dog investors have big plans in store with VR, plans the rest of the world can’t even begin to fathom yet. Why and How Virtual Reality is Growing? [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/How-Virtual-Reality-is-Growing2.jpg] THE AI BOOM Another big reason for VR’s ever-increasing popularity is the growth of another technology: artificial intelligence, or AI. While it’s difficult to definitively pinpoint which one came first, it’s no secret that the two influence and empower one another. As researchers learn more about AI and expand its capabilities and, with that, its possibilities, people become more and more intrigued. And, once people are intrigued with one form of technology, it just makes sense they’d show an interest in another, similar form of technology. As one might expect, there have even been some “marriages” of these two high-tech things. Take, for example, all those Instagram filters that people so love to play around with. The possibilities for interactions between AI and VR abound. And, with people already adopting every iteration of these combined technologies they can get their hands on, it’s not shocking that the growth of both would be positively correlated. INCREASING COSTS AND RISKS Of course, the VR world isn’t all about fun and games. Some of the growth of this technology, in fact, is owed to its practicality and usefulness. For example, take something like employee training. Having to get everyone to a physical location to undergo training can be time-consuming and costly. And, depending on the job at hand, it can also pose a risk, which can lead to liability. Savvy companies have gotten smart and have reduced both risk and cost by using VR to supplement or, in some cases, fully take over their required training. Even some military branches have been known to use VR resources for training. Furthermore, in light of COVID-19 and with more people staying secluded than ever before, another surge in VR is expected to come soon. People want to do things virtually these days, and so do many businesses. With both individuals and organizations on board and in need of the features VR can offer, the “VR boom” just makes sense. Why and How Virtual Reality is Growing? [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/How-Virtual-Reality-is-Growing3.jpg] THE ABILITY TO EXPLORE People have also fallen in love with virtual reality because of the opportunity it gives them to see and experience the world around them. Take travel, for example. For many people, traveling to exotic locales is cost-prohibitive. But, if they put on a simple VR headset, they can see anything and “go” anywhere they want. Places that once seemed impossible for them to visit, like the Taj Mahal or even the Grand Canyon, can now be experienced fully through the use of VR. It’s not just travel that can be enjoyed either. People can try on clothes in virtual changing rooms, see how different make-up shades or hairstyles suit them, and even check out potential venues for events all without leaving their homes. This means less expense for people and for companies, which keeps everyone happy. Plus, it adds a sense of adventure into the average person’s life, and who wouldn’t jump at the chance for that? EXERCISE, EDUCATION, AND MORE As you might expect, the possibilities of VR extend beyond just the basics. Not only is VR used for training and exploration, but people are also finding and developing their own unique ways to utilize it. Take exercise, for example. While not everyone feels comfortable going to the gym or taking an exercise class in person, no one minds putting on a headset and exercising in their living room. And, given the pandemic and recent gym closures all over the United States and beyond, it’s no surprise that VR-based exercise has soared in popularity. Some schools have also moved to using VR in the classroom or, in some cases, in lieu of the classroom. The pandemic has also been responsible for a surge in this type of activity. Plus, you have vendors showing off their goods in “virtual showrooms” or using VR to give people full and complete views of their products. As the uses and ideas surrounding VR grow, its popularity and ubiquitousness do too. THE DESIRE FOR LESS INTERACTION Finally, while some people might find it sad, there’s no denying the fact that modern people desire as little interaction with others as possible, or at least real, face-to-face interaction. Most have no problem interacting on social media, during virtual video game play, or in other less intrusive ways. The proof of this is evident all around. People walk through stores with their faces buried in their phones. They almost always choose the self checkout lane at the grocery store, fearing even the most minute interaction with a cashier. Even some restaurants have introduced virtual ordering platforms that require no discussion with the cashier and no tipping of a server. People have shown, even before the pandemic, that they want to have to deal with people less, and for many, VR is the perfect solution. They get to experience the world without any hassle and without any more interaction than they actually desire. As with supply and demand, businesses want to give people what they want. And, if what they want can be accomplished with the use of VR, then it’s not surprising at all that this technology has seen such huge growth in recent years. Why and How Virtual Reality is Growing? [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/How-Virtual-Reality-is-Growing.jpg] LOOKING TO THE FUTURE Since VR has shown so much growth as of late and since recent events, such as the pandemic, have spurred its usefulness, continued growth is expected. What’s more is that not only should VR become more prevalent, but it should also become even more advanced. Like most forms of modern technology, it’s just projected to get better and better until it’s almost unrecognizable from its rudimentary roots. For some people, this is seen as something sad or disappointing. They see it as a further disconnect from the world we once inhabited. Others, however, look at VR and the growth of other similar technologies and see it as progress. And, no matter where a person falls on this spectrum, the fact remains that progress will always continue. The key, then, is simply to embrace it. And, for the most part, that seems to be exactly what is happening with VR. In fact, pretty soon, it might not be “virtual” reality at all, but just a new kind of reality altogether.
Technologies That Are Transforming the Automotive Industry
January 28, 2021
Nearly every industry has evolved to some degree as a result of technological developments, but some have changed far more than others. In fact, technology has completely transformed certain industries. For example, the rise in e-commerce led to the decline of countless brick-and-mortar retailers and drastically changed the retail industry. Technology also changed the hospitality industry by eliminating the need for the middleman—the travel agent—in making travel arrangements. Now, technology is in the process of completely transforming the automotive industry. Here’s an overview of the technologies that are making the biggest impact on automotive companies: FORWARD COLLISION WARNING The introduction of forward collision warning technology had a significant impact on the automotive industry. This technology, which is now built into many different vehicles, alerts drivers when they are in danger of colliding with another vehicle or object in front of them. Some forward collision warning systems are designed to provide visual alerts to drivers when a collision is imminent. For example, some Acura vehicles will display a red “BRAKE” light when the forward collision warning system detects an object in the vehicle’s front path. Other systems, such as those found in certain Honda models, will alert drivers of danger with loud beeping sounds. Some automotive manufacturers, including Ford, GMC, and Jeep, produce vehicles with both forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. These systems won’t just alert drivers of the threat of a forward collision—they will also help drivers avoid the collision by automatically applying the brakes. Even if the driver does not take action to avoid the collision, the vehicle will automatically slow down in order to avoid colliding with the object detected in its front path. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), forward collision warning technology has reduced rear-end accidents by 27%. Based on this data, it’s clear that this technology has made the roads safer for all drivers. VIRTUAL REALITY Virtual reality is not limited solely to the gaming industry—it’s been widely used throughout the automotive industry as well. Automotive manufacturers have used virtual reality technology in a number of ways. Some automotive manufacturers, including Ford and Volvo, utilize virtual reality technology to offer virtual test drives to consumers. This allows consumers to experience what it’s like to sit behind the wheel of a vehicle without seeing the car in person. This is beneficial to consumers who are interested in purchasing a vehicle online without ever stepping foot in a dealership. Some automotive manufacturers, including Hyundai, use virtual reality technology during the safety testing process. Hyundai engineers perform countless safety tests on vehicles in a simulated environment created by virtual reality technology. Since no vehicles are actually damaged during these virtual tests, this allows the engineers to perform as many demo tests as necessary without increasing overhead costs. Volkswagen uses virtual reality technology to simplify the process of designing new vehicles. Design teams at Volkswagen no longer need to build clay prototypes of new Volkswagen models. Instead, they design virtual models. All changes are made directly to the virtual model, so the team does not need to waste time or resources building a new clay prototype every time the design is modified. Using virtual reality in this manner has drastically reduced the amount of time that it takes to finalize a new design. Technologies That Are Transforming the Automotive Industry [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Transforming-the-Automotive-Industry2.jpg] AUGMENTED REALITY Another innovative technology that has had a major impact on the automotive industry is augmented reality. Mercedes-Benz recently started using augmented reality technology to transform maintenance and repair services at dealerships. Technicians now have the opportunity to seek remote assistance on maintenance and repair issues by putting on a Microsoft HoloLens 2, which is an augmented reality headset. The device will connect them to experts located around the world, who will be able to see exactly what the technician sees. These experts can then help the technician identify the issue and make the necessary repairs using augmented reality technology. For example, the experts may use augmented reality to display a digital arrow that points directly at the car part that is in need of repair. A number of different automotive manufacturers use augmented reality technology to create virtual showrooms for consumers. This gives consumers the opportunity to explore the interior and exterior of vehicles from the comfort of their own home. They can even walk around the vehicle and look inside just like they would if they were standing in a showroom at a dealership. VIRTUAL FINANCING The vast majority of car consumers do not purchase new vehicles in cash. According to Experian, roughly 85% of new passenger vehicles are financed with a loan or lease. Financing has always been available to automotive consumers, but the introduction of virtual financing made it easier than ever before for consumers to finance the purchase of a new vehicle. Online lending allows consumers to shop around for the best rates with the click of a mouse. There’s no need to spend hours on the phone or visit multiple lenders in person to get information. Instead, consumers can simply fill out a few online forms to get quotes from various lenders. There are also more lenders to choose from in the online marketplace, so consumers have more options than ever before. It only takes a few minutes to get pre-qualified, so consumers can quickly determine their budget and move onto the next step in the process of buying a new vehicle. By making financing easier for consumers, virtual lending technology has removed one obstacle that often stood in the way of buying a new vehicle. Technologies That Are Transforming the Automotive Industry [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Transforming-the-Automotive-Industry3.jpg] LANE DEPARTURE WARNING AND LANE KEEPING ASSIST Lane departure warning and lane keeping assist systems are now found in various models manufactured by Acura, BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Honda, GMC, Ford, and other brands. Both systems use forward-facing cameras to monitor the vehicle’s position within the lane lines. Lane departure warning systems will alert the driver when their vehicle is starting to drift outside of the lines. These systems may alert the driver using visual cues, such as flashing lights, or audible cues, such as beeping sounds. The driver can then use the steering wheel to correct the vehicle’s positioning. Lane keeping assist systems will do more than simply alert the driver that they are drifting outside of the lane lines. These systems are also designed to correct the vehicle’s positioning by automatically applying the brakes or adjusting the steering wheel. The driver does not need to take action in order to stay within the lines if this system has been activated. Both of these systems prevent collisions that occur when a vehicle accidentally drifts into another lane, which could be occupied by another vehicle. However, this does not mean that drivers won’t be able to change lanes in a vehicle designed with lane departure warning or lane keeping assist technology. These systems are only activated when the turning signal is off. In other words, if the driver uses their turning signal when changing lanes, neither system will turn on. BLIND SPOT WARNING Blind spot warning is another type of technology that has completely transformed the automotive industry by improving vehicle safety. Blind spot warning systems are supported by sensors, cameras, and radar technology. These technologies are used to detect vehicles, pedestrians, and objects that fall within the driver’s blind spots. These spots include the front of the vehicle, back of the vehicle, and along each side. If a vehicle, pedestrian, or object is detected in a blind spot, the system will alert the driver by flashing a light or making a beeping noise. Most systems use visual alerts in the form of blinking lights on the vehicle’s side mirrors, which is directly in the driver’s line of sight if they are attempting to change lanes or merge. Some systems are designed to always monitor these blind spots, whereas others will only activate if the driver has their turning signal on and is attempting to change lanes, merge, or turn. There are also vehicles designed with both blind spot warning and automatic emergency steering systems. These systems will work together to detect vehicles or objects in the driver’s blind spot and automatically adjust the vehicle’s steering to prevent the driver from colliding with these vehicles or objects. Transforming the Automotive Industry [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Transforming-the-Automotive-Industry-1.jpg] REARVIEW CAMERAS Rearview cameras are common in a wide variety of vehicles today. These cameras are designed to help drivers see the area behind their vehicle, which can help prevent drivers from getting into back over accidents and collisions with children, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Most rearview cameras will automatically activate once the driver shifts into the reverse gear. As soon as the car is in reverse, a live video feed from the rear-facing camera will appear on the vehicle’s center display screen or in the vehicle’s rear view mirror. This way, the driver can make sure that there is nothing in their way before proceeding to back up. The live video feed from this camera will automatically disappear from view once the car is no longer in reverse. In other words, this system only activates when it is needed. Some rearview cameras also come with safety alert features. For example, the Toyota Rav4 rear view camera not only provides drivers with a view of the back of their vehicle, but also alerts the driver when they are about to back into another object or vehicle behind them. There are several vehicles that are designed with systems that will also automatically apply the brakes when the driver is about to back into another object or vehicle. FUEL EFFICIENCY Many of the vehicles on the market today are fuel efficient, which means they require less fuel to operate than standard vehicles. Some of these vehicles are designed with stop/start fuel efficiency technology. A vehicle that is designed with this technology will automatically turn off when the vehicle is idle and restart once the vehicle starts to move again. For example, the vehicle may turn off when the driver is stuck at a red light, but then turn back on when the driver is ready to move again. The vehicle does not use as much gas when it is turned off, so this technology leads to a significant increase in fuel efficiency. Many fuel efficient vehicles are hybrid designs, which means they are powered by both an electric motor and gas. Sometimes the vehicle is solely powered by the electric motor, whereas other times it is solely powered by gas or a combination of gas and the electric motor. Because it is not completely reliant on gas, a hybrid vehicle is far more fuel efficient than a gas-powered vehicle. These are some of the many fuel efficient technologies that are changing how vehicles are designed and operated in today’s automotive industry. INTERNET CONNECTIVITY The experience of driving or riding in a vehicle as a passenger has significantly changed due to technology that connects vehicles to the internet. Today’s vehicles are designed with “infotainment systems,” which are systems that provide information and entertainment to drivers and passengers. Through these systems, consumers can listen to the radio, connect to Bluetooth devices, look up driving directions, use various mobile apps, view traffic information, and more. Having access to this information and entertainment at your fingertips enhances the entire experience for both drivers and passengers. It allows automotive consumers to avoid traffic, navigate to their final destination without getting lost, stay connected to friends and family on the road, and listen to their favorite music throughout the ride. Thanks to this technology, there’s never a dull moment when driving or riding as a passenger in one of today’s vehicles. PREDICTIVE TECHNOLOGY Automotive manufacturers are beginning to use predictive technology to create a more personalized driving experience for consumers. For example, predictive technology can be used to automatically adjust the seat and mirrors whenever a certain driver is behind the wheel. This innovative technology can also help the driver predict when the vehicle will need maintenance or repairs. For instance, the technology will analyze various factors, including the mileage and condition of the vehicle, to predict when the vehicle will need an oil change. It can even analyze the driver’s typical driving patterns, including speed and idle time, to calculate how many miles the vehicle can travel before needing more fuel. When used in this manner, predictive technology takes all of the thinking and guesswork out of owning and maintaining a vehicle.There’s no doubt that the automotive industry is changing for the better as a result of innovative technologies. These technological developments have allowed automotive brands to manufacture vehicles that offer a more enjoyable, safer, and eco-conscious driving experience.
User Experience (UX) May Drive the Future of Automotive Design
January 27, 2021
User Experience (or UX for short) focuses on design implementation for products or features that are user-friendly, easy, and useful for the consumer. The term is fairly self-explanatory; that is, technology or features geared towards UX or focused on UX enhance the ‘user experience.’ These features are easy to navigate, never cumbersome. UX may drive the future of automotive design as more consumers (and drivers) look for features that enhance the driving experience and also provide on-the-road resources and solutions. These specialized features will likely offer sleek designs and easy-to-navigate functions. But the definition of UX design can vary. And this definition may include thoughts on what UX should offer the consumer…or user. The site User Testing offered up many different takes on what exactly UX means to different professionals in the industry. For example, Jason Ogle, who hosts the User Defenders podcast, offered this take for the site: “UX Design is an empathically-driven practice crafted to solve human and business problems, and remove obstacles and friction from a user’s desired goals—hopefully delivering delight in the process.” However, Martyn Reding, Virgin Atlantic’s head of digital experience, offered a more detailed take on the meaning of UX. According to Reding, “User experience design is the culmination of content, research, design and strategy and its effect on the delivery, selling and use of a digital product or service. In many instances, a user experience happens by the incidental smashing together of code and assumptions about people, so I think the distinction is in brands that recognize the value of a carefully crafted digital experience. In many ways, it is the fulfillment of a brand’s promise and recognition that how customers feel has a huge commercial impact.” User Experience (UX) May Drive the Future of Automotive Design [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-254.jpeg] WHAT UX MEANS FOR AUTOMOTIVE No matter how an expert or industry professional defines UX, it’s meaning and place within automotive has been taking hold for years. Drivers have seen a technological evolution in their vehicles, and how they interact with their car’s features. Years ago, the speedometer and all information on the dashboard were very basic. As technology advanced, these gauges went from numbers with a physical hand to denote readings and car data (think speed or gas volume) to digital in presentation. Suddenly, all the data began to appear as computerized information. The dashboard wasn’t just limited to one set of gauges and data points. As the dashboard and information systems of cars advanced with the computer age, digitization started to drive the data center. Drivers could actually switch the information that was visible on their dashboard. Now they could review information on tire pressure, mileage, fuel efficiency, and other mechanical specs. The user experience for early models of these new driving data centers likely was not very user friendly. Even today, some drivers might not like the navigation of the car’s information system; access to new data or a different screen on the dashboard may be accessible by turning a knob. UX AND GADGET COMPATIBILITY Heightening user experience on the road meant integrating other forms of technology within the vehicle. As smartphones became mainstream, the user’s dependency on them likely influenced UX designs for the automotive sector. Drivers were taking their phones on the road, but this need to bring the phone on a drive became entangled with devastating statistics. Distracted driving has often been a concern; any action that takes the eyes or attention from the road can be dangerous. Changing a radio station, turning to correct a child in the back seat, fiddling with temperature controls or even eating could possibly lead to driving inattentively. However, a phone on the road and its connectivity to texts and calls perhaps proved too tempting for some drivers to resist while driving. Texting and driving stories served as sobering reminders on how a gadget can prove to be a dangerous and life-altering distraction in the car. Public service announcements were launched warning of these distractions. In 2018, more than 2,800 individuals were killed because of distracted driving. Smartphones continued to follow drivers into the car, however. Many drivers rely on their phones in case of roadside emergencies. Perhaps the concern related to these gadgets and their misuse on the road prompted changes in UX designs within the vehicle. As the reliance on smartphones increased, UX within the vehicle evolved to accommodate these devices. Today’s newer vehicles allow for smartphones to connect to the car. The user experience is now hands-free, which, hopefully, reduces distraction. Phone calls can utilize the car’s speakers and music can stream, too. Need to send a message? There’s no need to even touch the phone while driving. Just give voice commands and dictate the text. Even map functions from the phone can be displayed on a screen within the car. UX BEYOND ENTERTAINMENT While smartphone compatibility simplifies and eases the driving experiences, today’s vehicles feature many more examples of UX throughout the automobile. Safety features like a backup camera are another example of UX on the road. Cameras—front and rear—aid the driver in parking and navigation. In the past, backing up meant looking over your shoulder…and hoping nothing was in the blind spots. Now cameras show the driver everything, which may reduce accidents and even little fender benders. There is no guessing about the turning radius and if the front end has safely cleared the car parked alongside. In this way, augmented reality has enhanced UX. Another safety example? Automatic braking. Many cars now stop automatically when something is detected that could cause an accident. About to back into a trash can? The car knows. This smart feature could freak out drivers when they first experience it, but the safety implications are far-reaching. UX OUTSIDE OF THE VEHICLE The automotive industry embraces UX in its sales initiatives, too. During Covid, sales for many industries—retail and even automotive—moved online. To better serve consumers, companies likely tailored their site and their sales tools by improving user experience. The automotive industry implemented virtual user experiences. These included virtual showrooms that allowed shoppers to preview vehicles, change paint hues, and also peek at the interior. Some dealerships even offered virtual test drives; potential buyers could request a vehicle that would be delivered to their home for the test drive. For extra convenience, loan approvals also may have been offered online. During Covid, manufacturers also might have used virtual or augmented reality to enhance UX, too. For example, Lamborghini previewed its new Huracan EVO RWD Spyder via a unique augmented reality experience that allowed users to drop the vehicle into any real life environment. Users could then walk around the automobile and examine its features…in the comfort of their home! User Experience (UX) May Drive the Future of Automotive Design [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-255.jpeg] UX OF THE FUTURE The ultimate user experience features in automotive are right around the bend. In the not-so-distant future, UX will go AI. Self-driving cars are on the horizon. Not only are manufacturers like Tesla moving this technology forward, but the tech giants—Google, Apple, Amazon, and even Microsoft—also may be in the driver’s seat. When UX is taken to the extreme, perhaps it becomes so autonomous and intelligent that users don’t even have to think about its significance. Self-driving vehicles will take drivers on a journey of leisure. There will be no worries about the next left turn, parking, or even navigating to a new destination. The journey will be automated. These cars—especially those whose models might be linked to a tech company—also might integrate other unique UX details. These features would go far beyond what we know now in modern vehicles. Perhaps the self-driving cars of the future feature avatars to drive us. Virtual assistants could be integrated into the vehicle, too. Many new cars feature upgraded options like television screens in the back seat. What if every seat in the vehicle had a digitized entertainment station? Perhaps these stations also include their own unique personal assistant. Could kids have a kid-friendly AI assistant? Maybe avatars/assistants are build-your-own models. Every seat includes a customized assistant for the journey! What if the phone became remotely linked to the car? Perhaps the driver could leave the phone at home, but all the data would still appear in the car’s system. Including contacts and other information. The physical phone could be a relic of the past. Self-driving cars would need to feature advanced safety systems that are far beyond what current cars possess. Any car that drives without a human—using only the computer—would need to understand every feature of the road, every rule, and make split-second navigation decisions to ensure safety. But these cars also would need to sense any upcoming obstacle. Cars are already being developed with these types of intelligent UX offerings. Nissan, for example, is working on its Invisible-to-Visible technology; one of the features includes sensors to detect upcoming obstacles (like pedestrians).Today’s vehicles integrate UX features that enhance the driving experience. Digitized dashboards create an advanced understanding of the vehicle diagnostics, and touchscreen entertainment hubs sync with phones to stream music and enhance communication options. Safety UX designs in vehicles today include augmented reality cameras that show the real-world environment and ease parking and navigation. The future, however, may offer the full UX design—the self-driving vehicle. The power of AI will provide for a hands-off driving experience that could turn the road into an entertainment and leisure space for passengers.
Virtual Reality: Is It the Answer to Zoom Fatigue?
January 25, 2021
Remote work has become increasingly popular over the years. But last year, remote work grew exponentially as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. It’s estimated that 42% of the U.S. workforce is currently working remotely. According to a recent survey, 80% of employers are going to continue to allow their employees to work from home at least part of the time even when it is safe to return to the workforce. Based on this data, it’s clear that remote work won’t simply fade away once the pandemic is over. Because remote work is here to stay, it’s important for employers to address several issues that remote employees encounter in their new work environment. One of these issues is Zoom fatigue, which refers to remote workers’ frustration with having to attend countless video calls throughout the workweek. One company recently conducted a survey of 1,000 remote workers in the United Kingdom. Over one-third of the respondents admitted that they were exhausted due to hours of voice calls and meetings. Nearly half of the respondents revealed that they would prefer more face-to-face interactions with their co-workers over voice calls on Zoom. These results indicate that remote workers are clearly open to Zoom alternatives that will give them an opportunity to interact with their co-workers face-to-face. Meeting in person is not an option for many remote workers right now. But there is one other way to beat Zoom fatigue once and for all: virtual reality technology. WHAT IS VIRTUAL REALITY TECHNOLOGY? Virtual reality is technology that transports users into a simulated environment. Users aren’t just watching a simulated environment on a screen. Instead, they are fully immersed into the environment and able to interact with different elements of their simulated surroundings. Users typically need to wear a virtual reality headset device in order to experience virtual reality technology. Some of the most popular virtual reality headsets on the market are the Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest, HTC Vive, and Google Cardboard. Virtual Reality: Is It the Answer to Zoom Fatigue? [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-233.jpeg] The simulated world created by virtual reality is often so like-like and real that users often experience what is known as “VR presence.” This is a phenomenon that occurs when virtual reality tricks your senses into believing that what you are virtually experiencing is what you are actually experiencing in real life. If this phenomenon occurs, your body will respond to virtual stimuli. For example, if you are standing on the ledge of a virtual mountain, you may find that your brain will not allow your body to step off the virtual ledge. Even though you’re safely standing on carpet in the real world, your brain has been tricked into thinking you’re actually on the edge of a mountain and in danger of falling. Although virtual reality is often associated with the gaming industry, this technology has been used in a wide variety of industries. Virtual reality is not all fun and games—it has many other useful applications. CAN VIRTUAL REALITY SOLVE THE ZOOM FATIGUE CRISIS? Some experts believe that using virtual reality technology is the best way to resolve the Zoom fatigue crisis among remote workers. How would it work? Instead of scheduling video calls on Zoom, remote workers could meet with each other in a simulated work environment powered by virtual reality technology. For example, the technology could transport a team of remote workers to a professional meeting room with office furniture and a white board. You would be able to look around the simulated environment and see your virtual co-workers just like you would if you were in the office with them. Each of you could take a seat at the virtual table and brainstorm ideas, which could be written on the virtual whiteboard. Unlike on Zoom calls, in this virtual world, you won’t have to listen carefully to a voice to guess who is speaking. Simply look around the room to see which virtual coworker has the floor—just like you would do in a regular office meeting. You also won’t have to mute yourself like you would on a Zoom video call. The entire team would be encouraged to speak freely just as they would in a real face-to-face brainstorming meeting. Because coworkers can see each other on a video call, many of them feel the need to get dressed as if they were going into an office before a Zoom meeting. But this wouldn’t be necessary in a virtual reality meeting since coworkers would only get to see virtual versions of each other rather than a live feed from each co-worker’s home. Virtual reality technology would essentially recreate the experience of meeting with co-workers in an office setting. It’s not exactly the same as actually seeing your co-workers in person, but many remote workers may find that it’s close enough to satisfy their desire for face-to-face interaction. In fact, a study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that employees are more emotionally connected and focused when using virtual reality technology compared to other alternatives. If this study is correct, the use of virtual reality technology could help remote workers who are struggling to adjust to the lack of face-to-face interactions in their new, isolated work environment. Virtual Reality: Is It the Answer to Zoom Fatigue? [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-234.jpeg] CAN REMOTE WORKERS USE VIRTUAL REALITY TECHNOLOGY IN OTHER WAYS? Using virtual reality to eliminate the need for Zoom video calls is one of many ways in which this technology can be utilized by remote workers. A number of different companies are already using virtual reality technology to provide training sessions to remote employees. For instance, several automotive manufacturers use virtual reality technology to provide training sessions to assembly line workers. These workers can learn how to manufacture different automotive parts inside this simulated environment. They can also practice manufacturing the parts inside the simulated environment, where it won’t matter if they make a mistake. This way, they can learn from their mistakes inside a safe environment before putting their skills to the test in the real world. Thanks to virtual reality technology, remote workers at automotive companies were also able to design new vehicles without building physical models or meeting in-person. Designers, engineers, and quality control specialists at Ford all relied on virtual reality technology to complete the design of the Mustang Mach-E. Of course, companies outside of the automotive industry are also using virtual reality to help remote workers perform their job duties. Facebook is currently in the process of developing technology that would make it easier for their employees to work from home even if their space is limited. Thanks to this technology, remote workers would not need to make room for multiple monitors in their home office. All they would need is a computer keyboard in front of them. Then, they could put on a virtual reality headset, type on their computer keyboard, and watch as the words appear on virtual monitors. This innovative use of virtual reality technology would help remote workers create a productive and comfortable work environment at home even if there are space limitations. These are some of the ways in which remote workers can use virtual reality technology. But as remote work continues to grow in popularity, it’s expected that companies will think of more new and exciting ways to use this technology to benefit their remote workers. WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL BARRIERS TO VIRTUAL REALITY ADOPTION? It’s safe to say that the use of virtual reality technology could help many people overcome common challenges associated with working remotely. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that companies will start implementing these plans right away. There are several barriers that stand in the way of widespread virtual reality adoption. The first is a limited understanding of the technology. As previously mentioned, many people assume that virtual reality is a type of technology that is only used in the gaming world. These people may not understand that virtual reality can be used in other settings, including the business world. The cost of using virtual reality technology could also prevent companies from implementing these strategies. To use this technology, companies must invest in virtual reality headset devices for each of their employees. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-235.jpeg] Companies must also be willing to invest in developing the technology that would allow them to achieve their goals. For example, if they want to give remote workers the opportunity to attend virtual meetings, they must build the technology that would allow their team to meet in a secure simulated environment. The costs associated with this are steep, which means virtual reality technology may not be an option for small- or mid-sized companies. Some companies may not utilize virtual reality technology simply because they don’t understand the issues that their remote workers face. For example, a company may not realize that their remote workers are struggling with Zoom fatigue if they never ask their employees for feedback or encourage their employees to share their opinions and concerns. For now, these barriers could prevent the widespread adoption of virtual reality in the remote workforce. There’s no doubt that remote work will play a major role in the U.S. workforce in the future. But it’s still too early to determine whether virtual reality technology will also make an impact on remote workers’ work environment. However, companies would be wise to invest in this innovative technology in order to increase their remote workers’ job satisfaction and boost morale.
How Augmented Reality is Used For E-Commerce
January 22, 2021
Many people associate augmented reality with the gaming industry, but when it comes to this technology, it’s not all fun and games. There are countless ways to use augmented reality, which is why this technology has been embraced by businesses in a wide variety of industries. Augmented reality has been used to enhance the educational experience for students in the classroom. In the automotive industry, manufacturers use it to increase the efficiency of the design and production process. In marketing, brands use augmented reality to grab consumers’ attention and make their advertisements stand out. Because of its popularity, experts predict that the augmented reality market will experience exponential growth over the next several years. In 2017, the value of the global augmented reality market was roughly $3.5 billion. But industry insiders predict that the value of this market will increase to nearly $200 billion by 2025. Much of this growth might be driven by the use of augmented reality in the e-commerce industry. A number of e-commerce brands have recently started to use augmented reality technology to sell to consumers. Now, this technology has the potential to completely disrupt the industry. WHAT IS AUGMENTED REALITY? Augmented reality is technology that allows users to superimpose various digital elements such as images, videos, and sounds on their real world environment. Unlike virtual reality, it does not transport users to a simulated environment. Instead, it allows users to blend the digital world and real world together. Users can immerse themselves completely into a simulated environment with virtual reality, but with augmented reality, they simply add to their existing world. Perhaps the most well-known example of augmented reality is the Pokemon Go smartphone app. This app was designed as a game where users had to locate, capture, and battle Pokemon characters. Augmented reality technology was used to make it appear that the Pokemon characters were actually in the player’s real world environment. Pokemon Go is one of many games that is powered by augmented reality technology. But now, this technology is also widely used outside of the gaming world, including in the e-commerce industry. HOW DO E-COMMERCE BUSINESSES USE AUGMENTED REALITY? E-commerce companies have come up with many different ways to use augmented reality technology to grow their businesses. Some of the most common ways in which augmented reality is used in e-commerce include: * Preview Placement * Virtual Try-Ons * Virtual Stores * Virtual Showrooms PREVIEW PLACEMENT It’s hard to shop online for certain items, such as home décor or furniture. This is because consumers can’t see the item in person, which makes it more difficult to visualize what the piece will look like in the consumer’s home. However, e-commerce companies can solve this problem with the use of augmented reality technology. How Augmented Reality is Used For E-Commerce [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-230.jpeg] IKEA, the international furniture and accessories retailer, created an app called IKEA Place that is powered by augmented reality technology. Consumers can use this app to project virtual true-to-scale 3D models of different IKEA goods. For example, if you want to see what a specific IKEA couch will look like in your living room, use the app to preview its placement in your home. This way, you can see if the size, color, and style are right for your home. Using augmented reality in this way makes it easier for consumers to shop for products online with confidence. They are less likely to purchase an item that won’t fit or look right since they have the option of previewing its placement prior to buying it. Plus, it saves consumers time after making a purchase. They will no longer need to rearrange the furniture in their home to see how their new purchase looks in different locations. Instead, they can figure all of this out before completing their purchase. VIRTUAL TRY-ONS If consumers shop in brick-and-mortar stores, they can try clothing and cosmetics on before deciding what to buy. In the past, they didn’t have the option of trying these items on when shopping online. But thanks to augmented reality technology, that’s no longer the case. Many retailers now use augmented reality technology to offer virtual try-ons for consumers shopping online. One example is Sephora, a global cosmetics and skincare retailer that developed an augmented reality app solely for this purpose. Using the Sephora Virtual Artist app, consumers can give themselves a virtual makeover. They can browse through different Sephora products and choose which ones to virtually try on. Then, the app will project the selected item onto the consumer’s face. This allows them to try out different shades of lipstick, eyeshadow, blush, and other items before deciding what to purchase. Solstice Sunglasses also uses augmented reality to create a virtual try-on experience for consumers. On its website, the e-commerce company uses augmented reality to allow consumers to virtually try on different pairs of sunglasses and eyeglasses. These are just two examples of the many e-commerce companies that are currently using augmented reality technology for virtual try-ons. VIRTUAL STORES Building a virtual store is one of the more ambitious applications of augmented reality technology, but it has been done before. Airwalk was one of the first companies to launch a virtual store powered by augmented reality technology. The brand created its virtual store to promote the launch of limited edition sneakers, which were popular among skaters and surfers. To access the store, consumers had to visit certain locations such as Washington Square Park and Venice Beach. Then, consumers could use their smartphones to visit the Airwalk app and project a virtual store onto their surroundings. This gave consumers the unique opportunity to shop in a virtual store and purchase the limited edition sneakers before anyone else. How Augmented Reality is Used For E-Commerce [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-231.jpeg] VIRTUAL SHOWROOMS The automotive industry often uses augmented reality technology to create virtual showrooms for their consumers. Using augmented reality technology in this manner gives consumers the opportunity to explore the interior and exterior of a vehicle without visiting a dealership in person. Instead, they can project a digital version of the vehicle onto their real world environment and explore it from the comfort of their own home. Since today’s consumers prefer conducting research on vehicles from home, this is an important tool for every automotive manufacturer to have at its disposal. It’s become even more crucial during the pandemic, which has made consumers hesitant to visit an automotive dealership in-person. HOW CAN E-COMMERCE BUSINESSES BENEFIT FROM USING AUGMENTED REALITY? Every e-commerce business should constantly look for new ways to make the online shopping experience more user-friendly and exciting. Augmented reality has the power to drastically improve the online shopping experience, which is why e-commerce businesses should use it to reach new levels of success. According to a recent survey, nearly two-thirds of consumers believe that augmented reality improves the online shopping experience. Furthermore, over one-third of consumers surveyed said that augmented reality actually makes them shop online more often. In fact, nearly one-quarter of consumers surveyed said that they would not shop in brick-and-mortar stores as often if more e-commerce sites used augmented reality technology. Another survey found that 70% of consumers believe they would be more loyal to brands that incorporate augmented reality technology into the online shopping experience. This data indicates that consumers are eager for all e-commerce businesses to start using augmented reality technology. Based on these results, it’s clear that e-commerce businesses can use augmented reality to enhance the online shopping experience, improve customer retention rates, and increase sales. E-commerce businesses that fail to use augmented reality could lose customers to other competitors who choose to take advantage of this technology. How Augmented Reality is Used For E-Commerce [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-232.jpeg] WHAT ARE THE BARRIERS TO USING AUGMENTED REALITY IN E-COMMERCE? E-commerce businesses can definitely benefit from using augmented reality, but there are certain barriers that could prevent the widespread adoption of this technology. First, many e-commerce businesses are not aware of the many ways in which augmented reality can be used. This is a fairly new technology, so decision makers at these companies may not fully understand what it is or how it works. Some e-commerce businesses may be hesitant to use augmented reality technology because of its cost. E-commerce businesses must be willing to invest in order to incorporate this into their selling strategy. For example, a clothing retailer that wants to use augmented reality to create a virtual try-on experience must invest in building a website or app that supports this type of technology. The retailer must also invest in marketing this new feature to attract consumers. Many e-commerce businesses may be reluctant to use augmented reality because of the time and money that it takes to get it up and running. Finally, some e-commerce businesses may not think it’s necessary to use augmented reality because they view it as another trend that will eventually pass. However, this is not the case. As previously mentioned, the augmented reality market is expected to experience massive growth over the next few years. The longer e-commerce businesses wait, the further behind they could fall in the competition to attract customers. There’s no doubt that e-commerce businesses may face certain challenges when adopting augmented reality technology. But e-commerce businesses must be committed to overcoming these challenges in order to experience the many benefits of using augmented reality to sell to consumers. In the case of augmented reality for e-commerce, the benefits far outweigh the costs. 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Rethinking Apple’s Smart Car Project
January 20, 2021
The future of automotive may be a self-driving car. Tesla is in the midst of this project. But tech giants may be getting into the action, too. There has been buzz swirling about the possibility of a smart car from Apple. This project has been discussed in many blogs and articles, including Forbes and Mac Rumors. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook confirmed the project in an interview with Bloomberg back in 2017. “We’re focusing on autonomous systems,” said Cook in an early June 2017 interview with Bloomberg Television. “It’s a core technology that we view as very important.” But, as of now, there are no precise details, plans, or photos that have been released. However, the lack of fleshed-out details doesn’t keep the internet and tech writers from theorizing about all the possibilities involving Apple taking a juicy bite into the automotive sector. Rethinking Apple’s Smart Car Project [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-240.jpeg] THE FUTURE IS AUTOMATED Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google stay competitive by innovating; the tech sector demands evolution, it demands new products, faster speeds, and sleek concepts. Consumers often want the latest and greatest. Last year’s iPhone or Android just won’t cut it. The newer models always offer something their predecessor lacked. Innovation also is demanded from the automotive sector. For those on the hunt for a new car, updated features may prove to be a selling point. And what was once an upgraded feature—like backup cameras—have over the years become standard technology. As the consumer’s buying habits and preferences change, products must reflect the buyer’s demands. For the automotive industry, electric power is becoming the new fossil fuel. Manufacturers have introduced electric models, and buyers may soon completely drive away from models that don’t rely on a plug to power-up. Global warming and other environmental concerns may have influenced this change, but the ever-changing price at the pump also might have pushed—and continue to push—buyers towards electric power. Beyond electric, though, is the idea of a completely autonomous vehicle. Powered not just by currents and computers but artificial intelligence. A decade ago, the idea of a self-driving car was probably something out of a futuristic sci-fi film. Now it’s becoming a reality. And perhaps everyone wants in. When the automotive future is AI, powered by technology, by programs, it would seem like a natural step for tech giants to bump into such a project. Who better to program an autonomous vehicle than those who know the ins and outs of such complicated systems? Apple isn’t the only player in the tech industry interested in automotive. While, yes, the idea of an Apple car generates buzz, interest, rumors, Microsoft and Google might be hiding under the hood, too. Microsoft for Startups helps companies who want to make autonomous driving a reality. Microsoft states on its site: “Autonomous vehicles represent a digital transformation that will enable safer roads, efficient cities and a cleaner environment. This technology space is unique, with a complex set of challenges and sophisticated solutions. That is why we have created an exclusive program, specifically designed to empower startups in this space.” Let’s not forget Google! Investopedia covered Google’s future car endeavor, which began way back in 2009. Per Investopedia, Waymo is a subsidiary of Alphabet (Google’s parent company) that aims “…to make it safe and easy for people and things to get where they’re going. The Waymo Driver can improve the world’s access to mobility while saving thousands of lives now lost to traffic crashes.” Waymo’s focus on autonomous vehicles is safety, and, perhaps, ultimately the elimination of accidents. With humans behind the wheel, choice may play a role in vehicular accidents. However, with a computer behind the wheel, the idea is that these errors would be a concern of the past. Interestingly, Investopedia’s article about Waymo delves into the impact of a self-driving vehicle for other industries. As the site points out, a car that eliminates accidents could have serious implications for the insurance industry. However, the site also noted that even the airline industry could take a hit. Drivers don’t have to worry about feeling sleepy during a long drive, because AI’s in control! So it could be more convenient—and cheaper—to skip the flight and rely on that self-driving car! ZOOX! IT’S AMAZON! Amazon also nudged into the automotive sector with its autonomous taxi developed by Zoox (a company that was acquired by Amazon). The taxi was unveiled last month. According to CNBC, the ‘robotaxi’ is being tested in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Foster City, Calif. Competitors include Waymo and Cruise’s Origin (Cruise is a subsidiary of GM). Rethinking Apple’s Smart Car Project [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-241.jpeg] THE FEATURES OF A SELF-DRIVING CAR? As self-driving vehicles are still in development, the features are mere speculation. It would be reasonable to expect, however, that vehicles produced by the tech industry—Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft—eventually would be compatible with their products. If and when robotaxis become personal vehicles for the public, these vehicles might include unique features specific to each company’s own technology offerings. An Amazon-designed autonomous vehicle targeted for personal use might include features compatible with Alexa. Or perhaps Alexa is the voice behind the vehicle. The car could feature an Alexa driver who talks to passengers during the drive. And perhaps passengers can make requests for music, restaurant reservations or more. Apple’s autonomous vehicle would likely want to be compatible with all Apple products…and perhaps even feature Siri. Passengers could plug in their phones or tablets. Maybe car data pops up on the Apple Watch. The same ideas and concepts hold true for Google and Microsoft, too. As companies fine-tune the idea of autonomous vehicles, the models driving on the road could become incredibly tech savvy. Teleconferences could happen in the car. Avatars could pop into the vehicle. The engineers could release technology for these vehicles that could be absolute game-changers. Autonomous vehicles could become entertainment hubs! WHEN WILL AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES HIT THE ROAD? While the possibilities for autonomous vehicles are incredibly exciting, many companies have merely scratched the surface of this technology. All vehicles that are being developed or could be developed will likely have to go through many test runs to ensure safety. Launching a vehicle that drives itself requires the car to be smarter than any human. The car has to be programmed to understand every rule of the road and it has to be able to make movement decisions in split seconds based upon the actions of other vehicles on the road. Think about the decisions most drivers make during an average commute. Even a short commute! When the stop light turns red, drivers have to brake and stop. Yield signs mean that the driver has to give the right of way to another driver. Turning left on a busy street means understanding the speed of oncoming cars and knowing when it’s safe to make that turn. Autonomous cars have to understand all these intricacies to eliminate the possibility of any type of accident. For the car to be in control, the computer has to understand every piece of the puzzle. This would include multiple sensors throughout the vehicle. And many other unique features. So while the space-age concept of autonomous vehicles—and an Apple car!—will likely become a reality in the future, the question is really how far in the future will these cars make their debut. Robotaxis are already being tested, so this could lead to a new type of email services. For drivers looking for a car that does all the work for them, though, the wait may be quite a bit longer. AUGMENTED REALITY AND THE SMART CAR Writing for Forbes, Tim Bajarin theorized what he felt might be the reality of the much-hyped Apple smart car. Bajarin discussed the role of augmented reality and how, perhaps, Apple may be looking to integrate AR into vehicles and how this might also include the use of smart glasses. Apple did apply for a patent related to a mixed-reality windshield, so this theory could be accurate. However, it’s also possible that an augmented reality windshield could be one piece of an autonomous vehicle concept. If other players in the tech sector are eyeing a piece of the autonomous vehicle market, it would make sense that Apple would compete for this market share, too. So could all the buzz around an Apple car simply be linked to AR or mixed reality? It is a possibility. However, Mac Rumors noted that vehicles were spotted testing an autonomous driving software for Apple. Mac Rumors features pictures of the vehicles. While no one has a picture or exact idea regarding what an autonomous car will look like—for Apple or any of the big players—the ideas are really endless. Right now, autonomous vehicles are designed more for ridesharing type services. However, the future for drivers may be the driverless car. Which company introduces the first self-driving car in the market is perhaps the big race right now. Will it be Tesla? Amazon? Apple? Microsoft? Or Waymo? Perhaps the first autonomous car aimed at consumers will be debuted from a major player in the auto industry. What is known is that the idea of an autonomous car is the tech-savvy future of this industry. And clearly everyone wants to take a bite out of this market!