A car designer wearing VR goggles next to a futuristic car design

7 Uses For VR In The Automotive Industry

Virtual reality (VR) is becoming increasingly popular with car makers. Manufacturers are using the technology to make the car buying experience more engaging, improve product design, enhance customer service, and more.

This guide looks at some uses for VR in the automotive industry and how car makers can benefit from this technology.

1. Design and prototyping

Virtual reality reduces the need for physical prototypes, which can be time-consuming and expensive. Designers can experiment with different concepts much quicker and with less risk attached. They can test various scenarios with fewer materials and labor expense.

Initial car designs often don’t meet engineering requirements. The design looks impressive but lacks performance requirements due to safety issues or poor aerodynamics. The back-and-forth between different functional areas is time-consuming and costly.

The combination of CAD vehicle prototypes and VR provides car makers with accurate visualizations. The teams can interact with the model as though the vehicle prototype has been built.  

An automotive engineer wearing a VR headset while working on an electric car chassis. A 3D graphics visualization provides a virtual model of a vehicle for digital wind tunnel testing.
VR provides a virtual model of a vehicle for digital wind tunnel testing.

Test drivers can wear full-body suits that track body movements to evaluate their interaction with the vehicle. It is also possible to merge a driving simulation with the new car to simulate a test drive.

Data like ergonomic performance provides valuable information, flagging potential problems before the project advances further.

2. Test driving

Car makers can use VR to offer customers a better test-driving experience. It allows the user to test drive a range of cars in a virtual environment.

Buyers can customize aspects of the car, like color, engine size, and other features, from a showroom or the customer’s home. Customers get an immersive feel for the vehicle before making a purchase decision.

While most buyers will want to test drive the real thing, it’s a helpful starting point. After these virtual tests, customers that visit a car dealer will be much more qualified to purchase.

Virtual drives also benefit the customer, who can try multiple cars without any sales pressure from the salesperson.

A man using virtual reality and simulation equipment to test drive a car
Virtual simulations provide lifelike driving experiences.

3. Service training

Some car brands already have virtual reality training in place for their technicians. They can learn about different systems of a car much faster than traditional methods of learning, saving employers time and money.

Besides technical development, virtual reality is an excellent way to induct new employees. It helps run through safety, culture, and other common onboarding topics. 

4. Racing simulators

Professional race car drivers often use racing simulators powered by VR tech to improve their performance on track day. This saves valuable time and resources while also providing more realistic training sessions than what could be achieved through solo practice runs.

5. Vehicle maintenance

Car makers can use VR to help customers understand how to maintain their vehicles properly. It also helps them diagnose potential issues that may crop up in the future.

By providing immersive visual instructions, customers can better understand how to take care of their vehicles. Over time, this should result in fewer trips to mechanics or dealerships. 

6. Collaboration

VR offers greatly enhanced communication between automobile designers. It is especially helpful for team members located in remote geographical locations. Team members can join forces and share their insights without physically meeting up.

7. Sales and marketing

Dealerships have started using VR technology as part of their sales process. The technology is being used in showrooms to give potential buyers an interactive look at what they can expect from a specific model or brand of car.

Customers are presented with a wide range of options, from interior colors to exterior designs, even if the vehicle is still in a shipping container somewhere in the Pacific.

Car dealers can also use VR to maintain relationships with current owners. Examples include virtual test drives and 3D videos that give viewers an inside look into the latest R&D.

Car companies can host special events in malls or exhibitions to reach a much bigger audience. While exhibiting a Ferrari in a shopping center would result in car damage, there are no concerns if the experiences are digital.

Check out more uses for VR in marketing here.

A male using a virtual headset to experience content from an auto manufacturer
VR can keep existing customers engaged with the brand.

What companies are using VR in automobile design?

Several companies are already taking advantage of virtual reality in their car design process. Jaguar Land Rover unveiled a “Digital Prototyping Suite,” which uses VR technology to allow designers to develop concepts rapidly.

Other companies like Ford Motor Company, Volvo, BMW, PSA Group, Honda, and Toyota also utilize virtual reality in some capacity.

VR pitfalls in the automobile industry

1. Cost

Developing a full-fledged virtual reality system and maintaining it requires significant financial resources that may be prohibitively expensive.

Solution: Car makers can consider investing in open-source software solutions, which often cost less.

2. Lack of standardization

Every platform has its own set of controls and rules that need to be learned before you can use them effectively. This can lead to confusion when using the system for the first time.

Solution: Car makers should create standards within their own organization, including developing internal guidelines regarding how virtual reality should be used and what features it should include so everyone is on the same page.

3. Sickness

Some users become disoriented or feel motion sickness caused by the VR experience. This isn’t ideal for productivity within a business and is far from ideal if potential customers walk away unwell.

Solution: Set limits on how much time users spend in any given environment and provide warning signs about possible risks.

4. Unreal experiences

A significant concern for auto makers is creating an unrealistic experience for customers. They may oversell their products or promise too much with their virtual reality, leading to customer disappointment.

Solution: Conduct testing before releasing VR experiences to the public.

5. Security threats

Manufacturers should be aware of security risks, including physical and cyber threats which could compromise data.

Solution: Implement sufficient security measures to protect customer data as well as other confidential information related to their business operations

Summing up

There are many opportunities for car companies to integrate virtual reality technology into their businesses. Car design and virtual customer driving experiences have huge potential. Staff and customer training could also revolutionize the auto industry.

If organizations keep up with advancements in this field, they will undoubtedly benefit from what VR offers.

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