The Many Uses of Virtual Reality in Cars

April 28, 2021

The Many Uses of Virtual Reality in Cars

Embracing new technologies is one of the keys to success in highly competitive industries such as the automotive industry. Automotive companies must continue to find new ways to implement exciting technologies in order to set themselves apart from their competitors and meet their consumers’ demands.

One technology that has been widely used in the automotive industry is virtual reality. This technology transports users to a simulated environment where they are free to interact with and explore their virtual surroundings. Virtual reality is often associated solely with the gaming world, but it has countless other applications outside of this industry. In fact, there are many different ways in which automotive manufacturers can use virtual reality in cars, including:

In-Car Entertainment

Most modern vehicles are designed with in-car infotainment systems, which provide different types of information and entertainment to passengers. But in the future, virtual reality technology may take in-car entertainment to a whole new level.

In 2019, the first public demo of in-car virtual reality entertainment was introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show. The “Rocket’s Rescue Run” experience was produced by Audi, Marvel, Disney, and Holoride. Using an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, consumers could travel to a virtual world with their favorite Avengers characters while riding in an Audi E-Tron. 

In this game, what happens in the virtual world will depend on how the driver of the Audi E-Tron drives in the real world. The passenger’s movement through the virtual world will mimic the Audi E-Tron’s movement in the real world. For example, the Audi E-Tron turns left, the virtual spaceship in the game will turn left as well.

Virtual Reality in Cars

This game, which was only available to passengers who ride in the backseat, is just the beginning when it comes to in-car virtual reality entertainment. Holoride plans on creating a wide range of in-car virtual reality experiences for passengers in the future. This could completely transform the experience of traveling by car for people who aren’t in the driver’s seat.

Virtual Reality in Cars

Autonomous Car Control

Autonomous cars are meant to drive on their own without any human intervention, but virtual reality technology could be used to help drivers maintain some degree of control over self-driving vehicles.

Several years ago, Toyota filed a patent for a virtual reality navigation system that would be used solely in self-driving vehicles. The system would show drivers where their self-driving vehicle intended on driving at any given point during their journey. Drivers would be able to see the exact path that the vehicle planned on taking in order to reach their final destination. 

If the driver isn’t satisfied with the chosen route, this system would give them the opportunity to change the self-driving vehicle’s plans. In other words, the self-driving vehicle would handle the actual driving, but the human driver would still be able to call the shots.

For example, say the driver sees that the self-driving vehicle is planning on taking a toll road. This route may be the fastest, but the driver may not want to pay the toll. In this case, the driver would have the option of adjusting the self-driving vehicle’s route to avoid having to pay this toll.

Toyota has not introduced this technology to consumers yet, but based on the patent filing alone, it’s clear that virtual reality will be incorporated into future Toyota vehicles in some way.

Virtual Showrooms

In the past, automotive consumers had to visit dealerships in-person to explore their options before deciding which vehicle to purchase. However, virtual reality has changed that. Now, automotive consumers can explore vehicles from the comfort of their own homes by visiting a virtual showroom

A virtual showroom is similar to a real showroom, but it exists in a simulated world rather than the real world. Automotive consumers can visit a virtual showroom online using their computer, tablet, or smartphone. Once inside the showroom, they can explore the interior and exterior of every vehicle just like they would if they were inside a real showroom. They can even walk around the vehicle and rotate it to see it from different angles. 

Audi is one of the many automotive manufacturers that has already built a virtual showroom for its consumers. Consumers can visit a virtual showroom to explore the full range of Audi vehicles. The company believes that this will help smaller Audi dealerships, which can’t carry a wide range of models due to space limitations. Now, these dealerships won’t have to turn customers away simply because they don’t have a vehicle in stock. Instead, they can direct customers to virtually explore the vehicle before making a purchase decision.

The introduction of virtual showrooms has made it easier for automotive consumers to research different vehicles online. Because of virtual reality, automotive consumers can get the dealership showroom experience without stepping foot in a dealership.

Virtual Reality in Cars

Virtual Test Drives

Taking a test drive is an important part of the average automotive consumer’s car-buying journey. In fact, nearly two-thirds of consumers said they would not purchase a vehicle without taking it for a test drive first. But thanks to virtual reality, automotive consumers may not need to visit a dealership in-person to take a vehicle out for a spin. 

Many automotive dealerships now offer virtual test drives, which are test drives powered by virtual reality technology. Consumers can select which make and model they want to test drive. Then, they can take the selected vehicle on a simulated test drive to see what it’s like to sit behind the wheel. 

A virtual test drive gives consumers the chance to experience how the vehicle drives and explore the interior of the vehicle. Consumers can test drive as many vehicles as they would like, which will help them compare different models, narrow down their options, and determine which vehicle is right for them. 

Taking a virtual test drive is also far more convenient since consumers can do it without scheduling an appointment in advance or leaving their homes.

Automotive consumers won’t need to purchase a special virtual reality headset or device to take a virtual test drive. All they need to start their virtual test drive is their computer, tablet, or smartphone. Then, they can buckle up and hit the virtual road.

Safety Testing

Every vehicle goes through rigorous testing before it is sold to consumers. For example, every vehicle must go through crash tests, which determine how the vehicle will hold up when hit by another car from various angles. 

In the past, automotive manufacturers could not perform these tests until the vehicle was actually produced. But now, automotive manufacturers have the option of using virtual reality to conduct these safety tests early on in the design and development phase.

For example, in 2017, many vehicles did not pass the headlight safety test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The next year, automotive manufacturers were committed to improving their headlights to ensure they could pass this crucial safety test.

Instead of waiting for a vehicle to be produced, automotive manufacturers began using virtual reality to test their headlights during the vehicle design and development process. This allowed them to determine whether or not the headlights met the IIHS’s standards while the vehicle was still being designed. 

If the headlights did not meet these standards, the automotive manufacturer could simply tweak the design and retest the headlights. This way, the automotive manufacturer could perfect the design of the headlights before the vehicle went into production. 

This is just one example of how automotive manufacturers have used virtual reality technology to reduce the time and costs associated with safety testing.

Virtual Reality in Cars

Design and Prototyping

It takes a long time to design a new vehicle. Countless changes are made to the design of a vehicle before it is approved for production. Every time a change is made to the design, a new clay prototype must be built to reflect the changes. Building these clay prototypes is not only time-consuming, but also expensive. Fortunately, virtual reality technology can eliminate the need for these prototypes.

Several automotive manufacturers, including Ford, are now using virtual reality technology to design new vehicles. Ford designers now create virtual models of new designs instead of clay prototypes.

Once the virtual model is complete, the designers can rotate the vehicle to view it from every angle. They can even put a virtual driver in the front seat to inspect the interior design. If a change is requested, the team simply updates the virtual model instead of creating a new clay prototype. 

This drastically reduces the amount of time that it takes to complete the design of a new vehicle. Ford estimates that virtual reality has shortened the design process from weeks to hours. Using virtual reality in this manner also reduces the cost of designing a new vehicle.

It’s also easier for designers to collaborate on a virtual design. Everyone on the team–regardless of where they are located–can visit the virtual room to view the model and provide their input. Because it is easier to collaborate, this process could lead to more innovative and exciting design ideas.

Employee Training

Virtual reality technology has also changed the way in which employees in the automotive industry are trained. Employees used to learn how to assemble different car models by observing others. After watching someone else correctly assemble a vehicle, these employees were given an opportunity to test their knowledge by assembling a car model under the supervision of trained experts. 

Even though they were supervised, employees often make mistakes during this stage of the training process. Each mistake can cause significant damage to the vehicle, which can cost the manufacturer hundreds or thousands of dollars. Some mistakes can also jeopardize the safety of employees.

Now, automotive manufacturers are using virtual reality technology to train new employees in a virtual environment. Employees can now get hands-on experience assembling a vehicle in a virtual world rather than a real world. This way, employees are free to make mistakes without worrying about the safety or financial repercussions. Instead, they can learn from their mistakes in the virtual world so they don’t make the same errors when assembling vehicles in the real world.

Virtual reality also makes it easier for automotive manufacturers to train large groups of employees at once. Employees from around the globe can join virtual training sessions, so automotive manufacturers can train everyone at the same time instead of hosting training sessions at each location. 

Driving Simulator for Teens

Hundreds of thousands of teenagers are injured in traffic accidents every year. Many of these traffic accidents are caused by inexperience. Teenagers are fairly new to driving, so they don’t always have the experience necessary to avoid accidents. To address this problem, Toyota developed a driving simulator powered by virtual reality technology called TeenDrive365.

TeenDrive365 allows teenagers to practice driving in a virtual world before they get behind the wheel in the real world. This simulator, which is compatible with Oculus Rift devices, provides teenagers with the skills they need to safely operate in a vehicle in the real world. It focuses on teaching teenagers how to avoid distractions while operating a vehicle.

Teenagers will encounter a number of different distractions while virtually driving in the TeenDrive365 simulated world. For example, they may hear their phone ringing or a passenger in the backseat asking them a question. Teenagers must train themselves to avoid these distractions so they can continue to safely drive their virtual vehicle. This prepares them for the real world, where they will have to learn how to ignore these distractions every time they get behind the wheel.

Teenagers who are unable to ignore these virtual distractions may get into an accident. Even though it occurs in a simulated world, it still feels real, which helps teenagers understand the dangerous consequences of distracted driving.

The automotive industry was one of the first industries to embrace virtual reality technology. Now, automotive companies have found countless ways to use this technology to their advantage. Some of these virtual reality applications are already in use, whereas others are planned for the future. This means virtual reality will continue to drive change and innovation in the automotive industry in the years to come.

Categories: Virtual Reality