The implementation of advanced technologies has been driving business competition for some time. In the automotive industry, as in so many others, companies are striving to implement the latest tech to deliver better products more effectively.
Automotive businesses certainly aren’t steering away from immersive technologies such as Virtual Reality. Let’s explore some ways VR is being applied to manufacturing, testing, and selling vehicles.
VR in the Automotive Industry: Market Overview
Striving to boost sales and offer better products, car manufacturers look at technology as a way to improve the customer experience.
Implementing advanced tech into the manufacturing process also raises demand for a higher-skilled workforce.
Using VR in automotive settings creates new opportunities for vehicle manufacturers to both improve product marketing with better customer engagement and increase sales with better-trained staff.
As the data shows, automotive companies haven’t missed those opportunities.
Back in 2019, VR in the automotive market was valued at $759.3 million. By 2027, the market is projected to reach more than $14.7 billion, resulting in a CAGR of 45.1% during that period.
The adoption of VR has been spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing rules and remote work requirements forced many companies to take a hit in both operations and sales.
When companies started to look for different ways to continue working, many turned to Virtual Reality to enable staff to practice their skills and get new knowledge while social distancing.
Virtual Reality is also helpful in creating new products. Manufacturers can use VR for designing and prototyping products, and for building realistic 3D models that can be reviewed in virtual environments and put through simulations.
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When it comes to sales, car manufacturers offer test drives and showrooms powered by VR. So, the customer can shop for cars remotely with a greater level of immersiveness.
In this case, the customer doesn’t even need to have a headset. The company can take all the hardware to the customer’s place, allowing the customer to walk around the virtual showroom or take a car for a drive virtually, without leaving home.
Considering the varied applications of VR in the automotive industry, we can divide their purposes into the following categories:
Below we will discuss the actual implementation of Virtual Reality in the automotive industry.
Top 4 Virtual Reality Applications in the Automotive Industry
Automotive VR solutions can be implemented at almost every step of the vehicle manufacturing and selling process.
Let’s take a look at each case individually.
Virtual Reality apps in the automotive industry can be used to create life-like simulations that allow workers to practice their job skills.
Through VR technology, staff can go through the process of assembling a vehicle, breaking down its essential parts for study, and mastering prototyping.
Simulations are created by the instructional designers in a way that makes the learning process more engaging and practice-based, given the broad opportunities the technology offers to create any scenario in a virtual space.
Another great feature of VR staff training is the absence of risk: in a virtual environment, trainees have little chance of hurting themselves by making a mistake. In such a space, learners are able to concentrate easier and learn the drill better.
Also, virtual training spares the trainee from damaging equipment or products, therefore avoiding unexpected expenses.
When it comes to social distancing, training in virtual spaces can be done remotely — the trainee doesn’t have to interact with other people physically, since the hardware is easy to manage and training-related communications can flow through the training software.
Here’s how several car manufacturers do VR training.
Volkswagen uses Virtual Reality to power their own portal, through which staff can access VR meeting rooms, training simulations, and learning material archives.
Audi offers gamified VR training simulations to allow workers to navigate the workstation within the complicated logistics system. The simulation recreates Audi’s Ingolstadt Logistics Center, where the employees train hand movements using HTC Vive headsets and controllers.
On top of that, Audi creates training simulations for car dealers: they go through a gamified interaction with a customer, earning points for later assessment.
Designing a new vehicle is all about going through an endless number of ideas, concepts, and prototypes. To produce a design that is both aesthetically pleasing and functionally capable, engineers create many prototypes for testing.
Creating a physical prototype consumes a lot of time and resources, while digital designs fail to provide the same hands-on testing experience as physical ones.
To deal with that problem, companies are actively implementing VR solutions to facilitate the prototyping process.
Engineers can use Virtual Reality apps to create complete vehicle designs digitally. The 3D models then can be reviewed and tested in Virtual Reality. As need arises, the model can be tweaked and changed easily.
Prototyping in VR cuts costs substantially since there is no need to actually manufacture the vehicle prototype over and over again. A virtual model can be built in a 1:1 ratio, featuring both exterior and interior, and can be changed on the fly with mock-ups.
Which companies, you might be asking, use VR to design their products?
Ford, for instance, has developed software called Gravity Sketch Tool. Using this solution, designers can sketch designs right in VR with the help of controllers and view the model from any angle by rotating it.
Using this tool, Ford designers are able to shorten the traditional process by skipping the first stage of creating a 2D design.
Bugatti also relies on virtual prototyping solutions to design its vehicles. The Bugatti Divo was designed in just six months, twice as fast as it would take with traditional methods.
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It is hard to imagine buying a new car without physically visiting the dealership. It is important to buyers to see how the color looks in real life, how comfortable the interior is, how much cargo room the vehicle has, and so on.
But the dealership is limited as to how many vehicles it can have available to look at.
So, how can showrooms offer more car options?
Many dealers supplement their stock with software solutions that allow clients to customize their future car using a number of predetermined configurators. They can choose colors, engines, and features important to them.
To give buyers a better idea of how the configured car will look in real life, manufacturers like Audi rely on VR software to showcase the vehicles to customers. They can take a look at both the interior and the exterior of the car.
On top of that, the solution enables customers to change viewing conditions: for instance, they can see how the color will look in different lighting conditions.
Self-driving cars have already taken to the roads — mostly for testing. To avoid causing harm to other vehicles and pedestrians, the technology requires substantial training.
The vehicle’s system must be tested through countless driving conditions, learning how to react to any possible situation.
This approach demands a lot of time and miles driven on the road.
But some of that can be avoided with the help of automotive VR.
Some of the test driving can be simulated by vehicle manufacturers in virtual spaces that are capable of simulating any kind of driving condition to allow a self-driving car system to recognize an issue and adapt to it.
Virtual test drives cut expenses on fuel and repairs, and obviously help avoid costly mistakes on a real road.
Companies such as Nvidia provide VR-powered testing software that simulates various driving scenarios.
VR Software Architecture: Technology and Features
As with any other type of software, the architecture of a VR solution depends on its type.
But generally, we can describe 3 major components that go into Virtual Reality apps in the automotive industry:
- VR app. This is the client-side of things. Vehicle manufacturers use this software solution to create virtual spaces and models for designing, prototyping, testing, or showcasing.
- Administration panel. The panel grants access to the content of the VR app — the admin can change, add, or remove assets if needed.
- Database. The database is used for asset storage — this is where 3D models, environments, simulation scenarios, and users’ data are located.
Main Challenges in Automotive VR Implementation — And How to Overcome Them
Applying advanced technology to business purposes is a difficult task that requires changing production processes.
Here are some of the challenges manufacturers might face in deploying VR.
Complex hardware and inconvenient user experience
Virtual Reality hardware has a long way to go before it can be considered as essential and intuitive as the smartphones we carry. VR headsets require a lot of power to run simulations, which results in their big size.
But as the technology continues to improve, we get hardware that boasts better technical specifications while becoming lighter and smaller with every generation.
Implementing VR in the automotive industry doesn’t come cheap. It includes the costs of:
- VR software development;
- Virtual Reality hardware;
- Training staff on how to use new technology;
All of those costs can add up pretty quickly.
But if it’s done right, those expenses will be compensated for by improved productivity and expertise among employees, and streamlined production processes.
High level of expertise required
The complexity of this technology requires a high level of knowledge and experience to ensure its correct application. Without the expertise, the plan might be too expensive to execute, or bring too little ROI.
To avoid this issue, it makes sense to partner with VR experts experienced with applying technology to the automotive industry. The right specialists can help the company identify proper VR use cases, create a roadmap, and execute the implementation.
How Much Does It Cost to Make an Automotive VR Solution?
The cost of automotive VR solutions depends on a variety of factors, which we will discuss here. Some factors relate to the software itself; others to the team building it.
Here are the software-related factors of the VR app cost:
Types of VR apps
Software solutions may be configured for various degrees of immersiveness, based on the company’s particular VR use case.
There are three major types of VR app:
- Non-immersive. The user isn’t immersed in the virtual environment — everything is displayed on the screen in front of the user.
- Semi-immersive. Here users do find themselves in a virtual space, but there are only three degrees of freedom. This means the experience is stationary and the user can’t move inside the space.
- Fully immersive. The software offers a full-fledged VR experience. Here, the person can not only observe the Virtual Reality but also move and interact with the object inside.
Fully immersive VR development is the most complex process; it requires strong expertise and sound development skills. So, the cost of the fully immersive VR app is much higher than that of a semi-immersive one, for example.
The features required for an automotive VR app also influence the overall development cost.
Features, in turn, vary in complexity depending on the purpose of the app.
For instance, VR software for marketing purposes can feature a rather simplistic 3D tour of the vehicle that the company offers. So, the app needs a virtual environment, 3D models of cars, and an admin panel to manage the assets.
A manufacturer who wants to go the extra mile can also create a driving simulator featuring all kinds of road and weather conditions.
When it comes to prototyping and designing a vehicle, the VR solution has to offer a high level of interactivity with the assets — creating, arranging, or removing parts of the vehicle for design purposes.
For staff training software, apart from interactive spaces and objects, another major factor comes into play — instructional design. To teach workers effectively, it’s essential to develop solid training scenarios in which the simulations are created. This affects the overall cost as well.
Another major part of an automotive VR solution is the assets the user interacts with within the virtual space. All kinds of parts, vehicles, and environments have to be created separately by 3D modelers.
Here the overall cost depends on the number of assets and their complexity.
Now, let’s talk about the team that creates the whole thing — the development team.
Development team composition
Each member of the development team has their own role, and whether a particular specialist is needed or not depends solely on what the client needs in the VR app.
Let’s start off by breaking down the team roles. A team usually consists of:
- Business Analyst — keeps the budget in check;
- Project Manager — oversees the development process;
- UX/UI Designer — creates the look and feel of the software;
- Developers — build the software;
- QA Engineers — make sure it has no errors and performs as well as possible.
The client can hire a whole team to do the project, or only a selected number of specialists to expand the in-house team and bring in the required expertise.
In addition, there are some specific specialists the business may consider hiring according to the project goals:
- Instructional designers — create learning scenarios for staff training software;
- Voice actors — do voice-over instructions for training solutions;
- 3D modelers — build assets for virtual spaces.
The logic here is simple: the larger the hired team, the higher the cost. The exact figure, however, depends on the developers’ hourly rate.
The hourly rate is how much each developer receives for an hour of work. Developers in different locations have different rates, so it makes sense to look into hiring remote developers from countries such as Estonia, where specialists with solid skills work for a lower rate.
The Future of Virtual Reality in the Automotive Industry
Virtual Reality provides great potential for car manufacturers to expand their technological expertise, improve the performance of their staff, and increase sales. That’s a result of replacing expensive and time-consuming processes with more insight-driven and cost-effective digital ones.
But where does it go from here?
One answer to that question lies with blockchain and NFT technology.
Audi’s company Holoride is building an ecosystem based on blockchain and NFT tech to hit two birds with one stone: provide customers with unique XR experiences while offering content creators clear monetization options.
Here’s how the whole thing is going to work:
Holoride creates a content-driven VR platform for vehicle passengers. While the car is driving through the real world, passengers can entertain themselves with immersive content.
The content will be provided by third-party creators, whom Holoride aims to attract with NFT and for fair compensation and convenient creative tools.
The content might include games, Virtual Tours, and 360 videos, and it can even be tied to a certain location in the real world through which the car passes.
Here’s where the close integration of Holoride with the car manufacturers comes in. The security of data flowing between the platform and the vehicle systems is guaranteed by blockchain technology.
The choice of the technology is not coincidental — blockchain and NFT also allow for fast scaling while securing the integrity of a developer-centric approach.
Our Success Story
The HQSoftware development team packs specialists highly skilled in VR development for the automotive industry. We offer full-cycle development and consulting services.
One of the numerous VR projects we have developed is a software solution for a global automobile consortium with a driving school.
The client wanted a VR app that simulated the distorted visuals of the drunk driver. Going through the simulation helps students understand the physical difficulties of operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
The software can apply a distortion filter on an image that is streaming in real-time. Also, the app features several distortion effects, such as latency vision, swirled, blurred, vignette, and double vision.
If you are considering building your own automotive VR app, drop us a line. We will evaluate your idea and offer the best possible way to make it happen.
A developer with extensive expertise in AR/VR, very ingrained into the topic of Mixed Reality development. Shares his knowledge and the results of many years of work.
Frequently Asked Questions
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