The Use Cases and Benefits of VR In the Automotive Industry

November 6, 2018
Car virtual prototype in Improov, VR software for CAD

Virtual reality has been boosting the automotive industry for a few years now. Already used by big firms like Seat, Volkswagen, Ford or Renault, VR allows companies to reduce the global cost and time of production of new vehicles. Car conception, employee training, marketing and sales… virtual reality offers many use cases and advantages to the automotive industry.

VR Increases Productivity During the Vehicle Conception Phase

Major Problem: Endless Modifications Generate Budget Overruns and Delays

Endless modifications following late detection of design errors or change in directions are major problems encountered during the car conception phase. Indeed, the conception team has to build a new prototype to correct the current errors. It will for sure generate additional costs and delays in the vehicle development.

It is well-known that a virtual prototype reduces significantly the amount of physical prototypes produced, but a virtual prototype simulated in VR brings many more advantages than simple desktop CAD. Indeed, VR offers the possibility to visualize the car virtual prototype at scale 1 but also to set up cross-site collaborative design reviews. Those two features making design reviews more productive will lead to a drastic reduction of the production phase duration and cost.

Displaying The Car Virtual Prototype at Scale 1 Increases Efficiency

A scale 1 virtual prototype helps the conception team better apprehend the simulated vehicle: its size, volumes, distances… Furthermore, engineers can also directly interact with the vehicle prototype to better understand interactions between parts and pieces. Reviewing a virtual prototype at scale 1 in VR is then much more natural and efficient than on a 2D screen. A better understanding of the prototype increases the chances to detect conception errors early. Moreover, VR offers the possibility to correct them in real-time, directly on the virtual prototype, leading to the creation of a better product.

By making design reviews more efficient, VR helps companies drastically reduce the number of prototypes needed for the vehicle development. SEAT thus managed to reduce by 50% the number of prototypes they needed to produce before launching its new car model. The company also managed to lower the time necessary to the production of a prototype by 30%.

Collaborative Design Reviews in VR

Improov VR collaborative CAD software

The conception of a car mobilizes collaborators from distant sites. It is thus necessary to gather all the stakeholders of the project regularly during the project development, whether it is to discuss news ideas, new directions or to organize design reviews.

VR grants the possibility to gather all collaborators in the same virtual workspace. For instance, Volkswagen uses virtual reality to facilitate cross-site collaboration between its teams in Germany and Czech Republic. It thus favors clarifications of misunderstandings and leads to faster and more efficient decisions making, a valuable asset in any project.

Virtual Reality Offers Opportunities to Test New Ideas

VR allows car designers to modify the virtual prototype in real-time, as many times as they want. It grants them the opportunity to test new ideas and discuss them with the team thanks to cross-site collaboration. Car designers can therefore work more easily on new design propositions for the future vehicles developed by the company.

Better Trained Technicians and Ergonomic Assessment

Training technicians using virtual reality increases productivity. Employees are indeed better prepared for the assembly tasks. They can reproduce the gestures repeatedly and benefit from a longer training session. Indeed, the workstations simulated in virtual reality can be used simultaneously by the employees, reducing the duration of the global employees training phase but increasing the personnal training session duration.

Virtual reality also plays a key role in employees safety and work comfort. VR can indeed be used to assess the ergonomy of the production lines more efficiently. For example, Ford managed to assess more than 900 assemby tasks per new vehicle launch using virtual reality.

VR also offers the possibility to gather committees and specialists, such as ergonomists and occupational doctors, to better assess the ergonomy of the workstations. Using a virtual mannequin simulated in VR, ergonomists can reproduce in the software the exact gestures of the technicians. They can then precisely evaluate their work comfort and safety and improve it if necessary. Thanks to virtual reality, Ford also reduced the number of employee injuries by 70% and lowered ergonomic issues encountered by 90%.

An Asset For Vehicle Marketing and Sales

Car model simulation in VR

VR presents great advantages in terms of marketing and sales. Many automotive companies indeed showcase their vehicles in virtual reality, whether is it for partners or direct clients. Thanks to VR, companies can now present many options and customization choices, such as colors or textures, from the same 3D model. One single VR simulation replaces several vehicles, and clients can immerse themselves in the vehicle and naturally interact with it. They can for instance test and check how textures and colors of their choice work together.

VR is a great asset for automotive marketing. Companies can create virtual reality experiences to immerse the clients into their brand universe. For instance, showcasing a car on a Mars scenery would probably express a marketing position on freedom and adventure. In VR, customers can interact with the vehicle and be transposed into various sceneries or situations. They can now test the vehicle in many places: at the car dealership, on shows and even remotely at home, potentially with a vendor using VR collaboration feature. Renault’s virtual reality experience was particularly suitable for the promotion of its autonomous car, the Symbioz, since the customers were experiencing a ride with no conductor.

Virtual Reality Is Not the Future, It Actually Already Began

The industry has been using VR and virtual prototyping software for more than twenty years with a proven ROI. Indeed, those technologies are at the heart of the Industry 4.0 and its Smart Factories. Your competitors are probably already using those digital twins right now, giving them an incredible boost in productivity and quality.
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