Why car brands are switching to VR

Posted: 13 June 2018 11:26 am News

Man making clay car model

Car designers are using virtual reality (VR) technology to bring benefits and savings to motorists.

German automaker, Volkswagen (VW), says virtual reality is quickly taking over car construction. Here’s why we’re seeing car brands switch from reality to VR.

Volkswagen and VR

VR developer David Kuri works as one of 30 VR developers at VW and uses a set of HTC Vive VR goggles and controllers to form a vehicle in 3D space.

Throughout the process, David can wander around the car, checking out all the angles and even ones that are impossible with traditional physical models. For the designer, it’s far more immersive than simply working with a 3D modelling program.

Goodbye clay model car design

Kuri said VW designers will no longer have to rely on real-world clay modelling of cars to work on designs, where changes are challenging to implement.

“Until now, design prototypes for new models were developed and built in reality. That costs time and money. Also, physical prototypes always only depict one specific stage in the decision-making processes, which is then outdated very quickly.”

Clay models are also incredibly dense, weighing over 5 tonnes each and costing upwards of $250,000 per model.

Other benefits include ergonomics since designers can feel how difficult it is to reach the glove box or how easy it is to grab the door handle.

VW also uses VR equipment to train workers across 120 worldwide manufacturing facilities. The technology can wear multiple-hats as engineers employ the tech when testing virtual assembly lines.

Cars designed by remote teams

VW isn’t the only brand working on VR tools for automotive manufacturing. Unity, the game engine company, has launched its very own suite of software for car designers. Their program allows decision-makers to put on a headset and interact with the car and sit inside it.

Head of Unity’s automotive team, Tim McDonough said a rig can be used with a physical seat and steering wheel to improve the experience. Crucially, as long as the user has a set of virtual reality glasses, they can be situated anywhere in the world, enabling car designers and board members to work remotely. Eventually, McDonough envisages self-driving cars being heavily tested in 3D environments.

Benefits for car buyers

While virtual reality could make the process of creating new car models quicker and more efficient, it will also bring about massive savings. Unity estimates savings of anywhere between $3-5 million per vehicle development. Those savings could be passed onto drivers.

Using this technology, prospective buyers could also be able to put on a headset and check out a car they’re thinking of buying. The user would customise the finer details, including the colour and trim, then head-off on a test-drive – all from the comfort of their home. For dealerships, this could also allow them to cut down on their stock of cars since they can demo any combination of spec and colour digitally.

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