How 3D & VR makes automotive design 100x better

Forget Star Wars, we are living in an era of “Car Wars” — the battle of car manufacturers.

On an daily basis consumers are now presented with new vehicles (and sometimes even car manufacturers), that all promise to be better than the one before it. In fact a study done by Bank of America Merrill Lynch forecasts that from 2018 to 2021, there will be 57 new vehicle launches per year in the US alone. Will consumers stay loyal to brands, or will they be swayed to trying something new for promises of better price, technology or experience?

Changing Buyer Behavior

Years ago if you wanted to buy a car, you would walk onto the lot and be shown models by some salesman, who would disclose the information he wanted to, often times at the expense of the buyer. But now with the internet at your fingertips, you can find out all about a car (plus the reviews) within a matter of seconds. This is what marketers call zero moment of truth (ZMOT) — where the consumer comes in to shop, already knowing everything there is to know about the product and usually having in mind what they want to buy. Not to mention that previously that same salesman would usually have a “take it or leave it attitude”, whereas now consumers are able to customize their car much more. Technology has completely changed the way consumers shop for automobiles.

Disruptive Technology

A decade ago many would have said that they are loyal to German car brands such as a BMW or Mercedes, as they are reliable and strong vehicles. While that may still be true, we also see electric autonomous cars such as Tesla (a player which didn’t even used to exist back then) getting people to commit to a purchase years before they can even drive the car off the lot. And why do people do this? Because Tesla promises, among other things, an innovative and personalized experience. Today you can find “connected cars”, electric vehicles (EVs), driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous cars on the market, at all different levels of advancement in technology. While these ideas may have seemed far fetched back in the early 2000s, they are quickly becoming a reality. Seeing the demand and buzz in this area, even big car manufacturers like BMW and Audi are forced to invest millions into research and development. After all they don’t want to be the next Kodak.

Competitive Edge

Cars are complex beings. A lot of work from many people goes into the design and manufacturing. So how can car manufacturers work in a lean, creative and efficient manner? With immersive technologies they are able to work on a different level than before. First and foremost, designing in a virtual reality or real-time 3D space allows for much greater optimization and efficiency than was ever possible with previous methods. To be able to see the work in 3D is a huge improvement for design teams, but to be able to refine the design in 3D in real time is simply revolutionary. It not only makes for better design, but it also makes the whole process more efficient and lean.

Here is an example of how Bell Helicopters used VR to enhance their design and testing process to reduce the time of creating a helicopter from 7 years down to 6 months:

Previous methods of design required using physical prototypes that were costly and time consuming to change or iterate on. That meant that even doing a few small updates required starting from scratch, forcing designers to pick between saving time or improving a component. The idea of doing that today seems like something from ancient times. Now designers and engineers are able to work with electronic models and iterate on them as much as necessary, to ensure a perfect product that the automotive company is proud to put on the market.

With technology and globalization comes dispersed teams. Companies no longer have to hire in their local market. They can have the cream of the crop, choosing from trained professionals all over the world. But with geographical dispersion comes a need for key tools to help teams collaborate. It has become less about sharing files through email and conference calls, and more about collaborating through immersive experiences. Efficiency and understanding is at it’s maximum when the discussion goes from describing something in words to showing it in virtual reality to a colleague on the other side of the world.

So we’ve established that using 3D and virtual reality is more efficient in terms of time and money. It helps designers and engineers be more lean and creative, to create something that they are truly proud of. And it costs a fraction of what designing a car used to entail, while managing a team of global experts.

Don’t believe it? Check out how Porsche is utilizing this technology..

We can expect that there is no going back now, and that this will only continue to grow in the automotive and transportation industry.

For companies looking to get into VR/AR/MR, NINJAR offers guidance on how these technologies can enhance and support your brand strategy.

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