Virtual & Augmented Tools Become a Reality in the Automotive Industry

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Virtual and Augmented reality are two similar headset-wielding technologies with important differences. Virtual reality (VR) immerses the viewer in a computer-created space, completely shutting out reality. Augmented reality (AR) overlays virtual elements on top of the real world, allowing the viewer to interact with both. Though these technologies may be familiar to you via video games or amusement park rides, both are regularly used in the automotive industry.

VR & AR in Automotive Design

For the initial design of a vehicle, Ford uses VR for designers to forgo 2D sketches and work in 3D. The technology allows designers to work collaboratively on the same project in real time. In 2017, Volkswagen looked into a similar VR application.

Volvo partnered with Varjo to use AR for test driving prototyped cars. This enables the company to evaluate vehicle features in early development and fine-tune the best driver experience possible.

Virtual Environments & AR in Production

At Toyota, after a vehicle has been designed, individual parts are assembled in a virtual environment to make sure they fit correctly. Flaws can be spotted and addressed before production, saving time and money. Any specific tooling can also be designed and tested before production.

For heavy tooling, BMW double checks the specs with augmented reality, saving the production and shipping costs of noticing an error after the fact.

To aid production workers, Tesla has applied for an AR device patent. As a worker views an object through specialized glasses, the AR technology highlights certain features and provides data. This lets a worker know, for example, if a weld was done correctly or if a component needs adjusting, resulting in more consistent and efficient quality control.

AR & VR for Training Programs

BMW uses AR in engine assembly training. The virtual overlay provides trainees with guidelines and instructions. Three people can use the training program at once when previously only one person could be trained at a time under a supervisor.

Audi uses virtual reality to train packaging logistics teams. While wearing the headset, trainees are presented with a computer-generated workstation and learn how navigate around it. The completely virtual environment allows trainees to learn anywhere without the need to be on-site.

Additional Applications: Repairs, Entertainment and Safety

BMW uses AR goggles to overlay information, such as schematics or instructions, when doing repairs. The goggles can also connect technicians with experts in Germany for assistance. Porsche uses AR goggles as well and hopes the technology will bring order vehicles back into the dealership as mechanics can get assistance with older car components they may have never seen before.

Nissan recently revealed virtual avatars that car passengers can talk to and interact with. Although intended for autonomous driving, such smart car technology may not be far off. Holoride plans to bring virtual gaming to car passengers and has made partnerships with Ford, Porsche and Audi.

In the safety department, Nissan is also looking at augmented reality technology that can highlight obstacles in a driver’s path, such as other vehicles or pedestrians. The technology could also read the flow of traffic and suggest what lane to drive in or a different route to avoid a traffic delay.