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The Best Uses of Virtual Reality and Simulation in the Automotive Sector

How virtual reality and simulation can work to develop autonomous vehicles, benefit driving experiences, revolutionise car showrooms, and propel the automotive industry into a new technological era.

In 2019 the augmented and virtual reality worldwide markets increased to $16.8 billion dollars. Even more surprising is the projection of the market’s future increase to over 160 billion US dollars by 2023. Virtual reality is indicative of the potential technology has for transforming the world we live in.

One avenue that is showing the most promise for VR development and progress is the automotive sector. 17% of respondents assumed the manufacturing and automotive sector would receive the biggest VR investment in 2018.

One of VR’s benefits to the automotive industry is its potential to speed up the development of automated vehicles. It also offers technology to enhance safe driving and the process of learning to drive.

VR can revolutionise the way we drive day-to-day, how we design vehicles, and how they are bought by the consumer. All of these also serve to significantly reduce costs within the automotive industry.

Autonomous Vehicle Testing

The future of automated vehicles promises completely autonomous driving. It’s a not-so-distant future where an individual trusts their vehicle to travel to a destination safely. The vehicle does so by using its own technology and with minimal human intervention. The technological advancement is impressive, but unsurprisingly requires large amounts of safety testing. There’s still a long way to go before automated vehicles can enter the mainstream.

The automated systems of autonomous vehicles must undergo extensive testing software. This is so that the technology can learn how to best respond to all possible driving situations. VR and simulation offer a means of significantly speeding up this testing process.

If the automated vehicle’s testing software links to a VR and simulation system, testing can go on with no risks posed. The testing does not have to take place on an existing road with nearby pedestrians or vehicles. This way, the system can build up its knowledge and test its responses without encountering the real world at all.

The technology would also mean that no human would need to be present throughout the testing; the computer is able to track itself. Rather than having to fund constant supervision and monitoring by an employee, the technology can develop on its own. With no restraints on working hours or salaries to pay, the testing is able to take place over a much shorter time at a reduced cost.

VR and simulation could reduce the extensive and costly testing required to bring automotive vehicles to completion. It means the money spent on test vehicle mileage and human supervision is left until the very end of the vehicle’s development. It’s not until the appropriate amount of safety testing has taken place that the vehicle need actually drive in the real world.

Preparing consumers for automated vehicles

VR can also prepare consumers for the complex technology present within automated vehicles. The technology will have its limits and there will likely be times where human intervention is needed.

VR offers future consumers the opportunity to gain experience in the operation of automated vehicles. Being able to experience autonomous driving without actually going anywhere ensures consumers can train for all possible eventualities once the vehicles are ready for use.

Autonomous driving will be an extremely new, and quite overwhelming, phenomenon. VR can help to familiarise consumers with the concept and help to build interest.

Automotive design and development

With the design and development of vehicles, VR software like TechViz, make it possible for people in different locations to work together. The Volkswagen team is an example of how VR can enhance vehicle development. VR saves them time and money by allowing employees in different offices to work alongside one another on physical objects in real-time.

In this sense, VR provides a method of advanced communication. Not only can employees in different companies speak on the phone or send pictures via email, but they are also able to design and develop the same physical objects from completely different parts of the world. This saves money that would otherwise go about ensuring all the necessary employees are in the same place at the same time.

VR can also save time and money by removing the need for re-modelling designs after every tweak and modification. Before, with each edit, a new model would be built according to the updates. With VR, the product exists virtually. This means endless changes can be made with no need for money wasted on materials or time wasted on construction. Again, it’s not until the very end of the process that tangible mock-ups need to be made.

Benefits of VR on the driving experience

As well as the new technology associated with autonomous driving, VR can benefit the everyday driving experience.

Audi has developed Holoride, a VR headset that is worn by passengers in moving vehicles. Providing entertainment on long journeys, Holoride maps a vehicle’s movement onto virtual games or scenes. It’s able to take someone’s everyday commute and turn it into a different virtual experience each day.

The Holoride is also marketed as being able to reduce the effects of motion sickness. The constant movements associated with travel sickness become the visual scenes being projected. As a result, the user is completely submerged within the movement, and their nausea consequently reduces.

The potential spreads beyond VR, with companies looking at the potential to place Augmented Reality (AR) into vehicles’ windshields. This technology would open up great possibilities for the driving experience.

An AR windshield could serve as a form of navigation in which your route is imposed onto the road ahead of you. The windshield could signal your speed alongside speed limits, highlight places of no-entry or empty parking spaces. All these shows great potential for AR to revolutionise our everyday driving experience. Any number of things to make driving easier could go into the windshield for easy viewing.

Driving safety

VR could alter the processes of learning to drive and driving safety. Able to be a new branch of hazard perception, VR could provide a more thorough and realistic safety practice. Participants could use a Head-Up Display (HUD), or even a more in-depth simulator, to go through driving routes and practice their responses to hazards.

AR also offers the possibility of adding hazards into an existing environment. This would offer personalised driving safety training. Participants would be able to respond to hazards on their own everyday routes.

Toyota has developed a concept like this which works to simulate the driving experience using the Oculus Rift. There is massive potential for technology like this to improve the ways in which people learn to drive and ensure safety while driving.

When learning to drive, virtual lessons could help to teach the basics of driving. Later on, they could combine with actual lessons to improve driving ability and confidence. If virtually able to practice driving wherever or whenever, young or new drivers could gain more experience. This means they could develop the skill quicker by combining the virtual experience with physical lessons.

Revolutionising the purchasing of vehicles

VR can be beneficial in improving the consumer’s buying experience. Using VR in car showrooms allows consumers to try out potential vehicles in new ways. They are able to test-drive a car without actually leaving the premises. This would provide a thorough try-before-you-buy process that could revolutionise the automotive market.

There’s also the potential for consumers to use VR to experience driving vehicles in different scenarios and with varying obstacles. This creates a more well-rounded experience where customers can make the best decision on what to buy. They are given more insight into their vehicle of choice and can make a more enlightened decision. One example is that they could test drive a bigger car than they are used to and familiarise themselves with what that would be like.

Similarly, customers are able to see exactly what they will be buying, with every personalised touch they desire. Designed to their very specification, VR can give the consumer a 360-degree view of their future vehicle before they buy; and before it’s made.

With the automotive showrooms themselves, VR can benefit employee training by creating simulated environments and challenges to practice overcoming. VR can develop the ways in which employees approach vehicle sales and improve the showroom experience for consumers.

Instead of exhibiting a full range of options, car showrooms may showcase one or two models and then use a VR headset to show customers further choices.

There’s also the potential for consumers to have the virtual car showroom experience from the comfort of their own homes. VR can remove the need for a physical location. Consumers could access the showroom experience wherever they want, whenever they want.

The world of VR has seen increased interest and development in the recent years, and this is showing no signs of slowing down. The automotive sector is one of the leading industries in which VR and simulation technology is thriving and rapidly developing.

Whether it be through developing automated vehicles or revolutionising the driving experience, VR holds the potential to completely transform the automotive industry and the way in which we approach our vehicles.

At ST Engineering Antycip, we are experts at creating virtual reality experiences and simulation-based solutions for businesses across the UK and Europe. We pride ourselves on our extensive knowledge of  VR and are happy to help with any related services you may need. If you have any questions about our services, please feel free to contact us.

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