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.
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.
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.
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
- Natural disasters
- Updated routes and construction sites
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