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Virtual Reality in the Automotive Industry:

Virtual reality software allows reducing the costs of R&D and manufacturing, increasing sales, and minimizing driving risks by moving prototyping, showcasing, and test driving to the virtual realm. In 2019, the global VR market in the automotive industry accounted for $759.3 million and is forecasted to grow up to $14,727.9 million by 2027 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 45.1%.

VR Adoption in the Automotive Industry

North America is the biggest shareholder of the global automotive VR market. While Tesla advertises its cars by offering customers virtual rides, Ford Motor Company develops a VR training tool for polishing the skills of its technicians. Germany continues to be the leading automotive VR adopter in Europe, with Volkswagen reducing design costs via virtual prototyping, BMW increasing sales thanks to immersive showrooms, and Audi enhancing the safety of self-driving cars manufacturing by performing testing in virtual reality.

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The key drivers of the increasing automotive VR popularity are technological advancement and the need to reduce engineering costs.

Automotive VR Software Architecture

The architecture of VR applications in the automotive industry varies depending on the application type. Yet in all cases, the VR solution architecture includes the following 3 components:

A client VR application

with modules responsible for processing input, generating output, building 3D models of cars and applying the laws of physics to their surfaces, as well as running interaction scenarios.

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A database

that stores 3D car models, VR interaction scenarios, and user data.

A web administration panel

which allows access to the content in the database and thus, data modification in the client app.

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Use Cases of VR in the Automotive Industry

VR for Vehicle Prototyping

With VR, there’s no need to spend time and effort on the complicated process of building bulky physical prototypes. Virtual prototyping also simplifies research and development, speeds up the design process, and reduces the number of adjustment rounds, thus significantly cutting the costs on the entire pre-manufacturing cycle.

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How VR for vehicle prototyping works: When full-scale 3D samples of vehicle parts or complete vehicle models are placed in the virtual reality, designers can easily manipulate them and quickly tweak according to safety regulations, design requirements, or stakeholders’ requests.

Use cases:

  • Pre-manufacturing design and approval.
  • Virtual testing of self-driving car prototypes.

VR for Training in the Automotive Industry

Virtual reality training software is useful for both manufacturing and after-sales. It can be a part of original equipment manufacturers’ corporate training programs to ensure quick onboarding and proficiency matching a brand image. VR training can also be an offer to potential car buyers, who would appreciate effective and safe VR driving lessons on specific car models (e.g., autonomous cars).

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How VR for training works: A user can drive or perform maintenance on a virtual vehicle just like they would do with a physical one – save for the risks of causing any damage to both humans and vehicles. To ensure better results, the VR app can include textual, visual, and audio guidance.

Use cases:

  • Technician training.
  • Vehicle operation learning.

VR for Auto Showrooms

Virtual reality technology can become a sales-boosting mechanism for car manufacturers and dealers. They have the opportunity to raise online sales via virtual showrooms, where potential customers will inspect 3D cars’ exterior and interior and have a test drive – all without leaving their homes.

How VR immersive showrooms work: A showcased virtual car is a complete and detailed replica of the physical model. Still, a customer can easily modify certain elements – e.g., the color of exterior or the material of interior – to understand what combination or variant they like best.

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Use cases:

  • Remote immersive tours.
  • Virtual test drive.

Technologies Needed

VR engine

Unreal Engine (C++), Unity (C#), CRYENGINE (C++ and C#) & Amazon Sumerian (HTML, CSS, JS)

Hardware

Desktop HMD / Tethered VR: Oculus (Rift, Go, Quest 2) HTC Vive, Valve Index, HTC Vive series

Headsets with eye-tracking capabilities: HTC Vive Pro Eye, Tobii Pro, Varjo VR-1 and VR-2

3D Modelling Software for Automotive Applications

Catia, SolidWorks, Creo Parametric, Autodesk Inventor, Rhino, Alias & Blender

Cloud databases, warehouses and storage

AWS, Azure & Google Cloud Platform

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