Ford is expanding testing of Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality technology globally to gain speed in designing more stylish vehicles for its customers.
Ford designers have been swapping some clay-sculpting steels and rakes for mixed reality headsets and visualization software that can change vehicle design elements – side mirrors, grilles, vehicle interiors and more – in mere seconds.
Designers have been piloting Microsoft HoloLens technology for a year now in Ford’s Dearborn studios in the US, allowing them to see proposed virtual design elements as if these pieces were part of physical vehicles. They’ve been able to explore different shapes, sizes and textures of future vehicle attributes in minutes and hours instead of the weeks and months it can take to create clay models. And now, Ford is expanding this pioneering testing across the globe.
“It’s amazing we can combine the old and the new – clay models and holograms – in a way that both saves time and allows designers to experiment and iterate quickly to dream up even more stylish, clever vehicles,” says Jim Holland, Ford vice president, vehicle component and systems engineering. “Microsoft HoloLens is a powerful tool for designers as we continue to reimagine vehicles and mobility experiences in fast-changing times.”
HoloLens technology uses mixed reality, which enables designers to see holograms in photo-quality backdrops through wire-free headsets. They can scroll and preview at the flick of a finger through numerous design variations projected virtually onto an actual car or clay model.
“We may not be able to teleport yet, but HoloLens allows us to review full-size 3D designs with designers and engineers around the world in real time,” says Craig Wetzel, Ford manager, design technical operations. “And we’ve only just scratched the surface, so possibilities for the future seem almost limitless. This is very exciting.”
Seeing the future
As designers wearing headsets move around an actual vehicle, the Microsoft HoloLens scans and maps the environment far more accurately than GPS to render holograms and images from the angle at which the vehicle is being viewed. A Windows 10 computer embedded in the headsets brings the power of the operating system to a holographic device that is untethered, wearable and mobile. Traditionally, designers and engineers have to wear headsets that rely on cables tethered to a PC.
Designers see 3D holographic images of themes and features as though these elements were already part of the vehicle – allowing them to quickly evaluate the design, make changes, and determine styling options earlier in development.
“With HoloLens, we can instantly flip through virtual representations to decide which direction they should go,” says Michael Smith, Ford design manager. “As a designer, you want to show, not just tell. This is much more compelling.”
Ford has adapted HoloLens technology to enable designers to collaborate with engineers to better understand the customer experience, too. For example, the technology allows a designer and engineer to evaluate in near-real time how a new side mirror looks aesthetically, as well as the customer’s view of the vehicle’s surroundings.
Whereas today it can take days, even weeks, to study a grille design, HoloLens allows designers and engineers to explore a variety of different iterations in a matter of hours. The headsets can even be synced to allow multiple team members to view a design simultaneously, making collaboration easy. They can also record audio notes – high-tech “sticky notes” – for team members working in other time zones or off-site.
Beyond the global design test, Ford is investigating how to bring HoloLens technology into more engineering development processes to further bolster the company’s lead in using advanced visualization technologies such as virtual reality.
“HoloLens allows a whole team of people to collaborate, share and experience ideas together,” says Elizabeth Baron, Ford virtual reality and advanced visualization technical specialist. “Mixing virtual and physical models is exciting, because it helps our designers and engineers communicate effectively and ideate to see what the future looks like earlier in the process. This allows great freedom and efficiency in how prototypes are created or changed.”
Jaguar charges South Africa
Jaguar, in partnership with electric vehicle charging authority GridCars, has laid the foundation for the future of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in South Africa with 82 new public charging stations in the country’s major hubs and along frequently-travelled holiday routes.
The R30-million infrastructure investment will make day-to-day travel, as well as longer day trips and even very long journeys possible for owners of electric vehicles, such as the soon to be introduced Jaguar I-PACE. With a range of up to 470km depending on driving style and conditions on a single charge, an I-PACE will comfortably fit into most drivers’ lifestyles, whether it’s commuting to and from work on a daily basis, or travelling the long distances required for inter-city holiday destinations.
In addition to the publicly available charging stations to be installed in customer parking areas at every Jaguar Land Rover retailer in South Africa, a total of 30 public charging stations will be erected at various points of convenience, such as shopping centres, in the country’s major hubs including Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and Bloemfontein.
South Africa’s city centres will now also be connected by the Jaguar Powerway – a series of 22 charging stations along the N3 between Gauteng and Durban and the N1 between Gauteng and Cape Town. Cape Town will also be connected to the Garden Route with a series of charging stations along the N2 all the way to East London.
Richard Gouverneur, Managing Director of Jaguar Land Rover South Africa and sub-Sahara Africa said:“As Jaguar we are proud to be setting the pace for the new generation of electric vehicles in South Africa. The launch of the Jaguar Powerway demonstrates our commitment to electrification technology and the future of mobility in our market. This new network provides peace of mind to our Jaguar I-PACE customers who can now experience more of their world with less range restrictions.”
The majority of charging stations on the public network will be 60kWh fast chargers, meaning 100km of range will take around 20 minutes for Jaguar I-PACE owners. A charge from 0 to 80% will take around 72 minutes.
Every charging station will also be equipped with a 22kWh AC fast charger to accommodate plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs). The AC standard Type 2 socket will allow charging of all EVs currently available in South Africa. The DC charger is fitted with the CCS DC type socket used by the vast majority of EVs in SA.
Jaguar Land Rover owners will use an RFID card to activate the charging station and manage electricity billing to the card. Cards can be credited with simple EFT payments, much like cellphone airtime top-ups. Charging station electricity rates will also be discounted by 25% for all Jaguar Land Rover EV or PHEV owners.
Like petrol, the price of electricity fluctuates, but for now the rate for 1kWh on the card will be between R3 and R3.50 depending where in South Africa it’s redeemed. With a 90kWh battery, a full recharge in an I-PACE will cost between R270 and R315 – a fraction of the fueling costs of conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
The entire Jaguar charging grid and Powerway is expected to be operational by the end of November, 2018. The Jaguar I-PACE will be available in South Africa in the first quarter of 2019.
Merc challenges students to pitch digital innovation
Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) has partnered with the LaunchLab to offer a pitching opportunity to students and professionals in South Africa.
The Mercedes-Benz South Africa Ideas Challenge will target interested students and professionals to pitch their innovative ideas around a set of challenges, tailor-made to advance manufacturing as well as relevant industry topics, as identified by Mercedes-Benz South Africa. The challenge spans various focus areas – ranging from big data and machine learning for manufacturing, the digitisation of logistics and production, machine learning, Industry 4.0 and many more.
The two partners are well-matched to create this unique opportunity for innovative South African talent.
Mercedes-Benz South Africa has a proud history and heritage in South Africa spanning more than six decades. Being part of the global Daimler network, a company with a track record in innovation and pioneering spirit of over a century, will offer the successful participants access to expert input and guidance.
The LaunchLab, a cutting edge, mixed-use business incubator based at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape, will facilitate the challenge which will run from August to November 2018. LaunchLab’s mission is to facilitate valuable connections between strategic partners and startups in order for Africa to develop into an entrepreneurial ecosystem that accelerates entrepreneurs to a new level.
The Ideas Programme is intended primarily for students and young professionals to validate their innovative ideas and concepts in the manufacturing environment. At the end of the process successful participants from the students and professionals, stand the chance to win various prizes and if selected have the opportunity to work on a proof of concept with Mercedes- Benz South Africa.
To book for this information seminar, visit https://launchlab.co.za/ideas2
Submission requirements: Participants should submit an entry form with a 3-minute video explaining their business idea on the LaunchLab website:
The deadline for submissions is 28 September 2018, thereafter, a shortlist of candidates will participate in an ideas bootcamp to further refine and validate their ideas. A group of finalists will then be selected and will then in November have the opportunity to present their ideas to Mercedes-Benz South Africa decision makers.
LaunchLab’s terms and conditions apply, and are available for download here:
“MBSA has partnered with the LaunchLab as part of our continuing efforts to contribute to youth development, the economic growth and sustainability of the country as a whole. The areas that the challenge is focusing on are key to our continued growth and success as we operate in a highly competitive space,” says Andreas Engling, CEO and Executive Director Manufacturing, Mercedes-Benz South Africa.
“The LaunchLab is very excited to have joined hands once again with Mercedes-Benz South Africa on the Ideas Challenge. This is another example of a well-known multinational company seeing the value of engaging with the start-up ecosystem and we are very pleased to be able to facilitate the interaction between these two groups to leverage the strengths of both, for mutual benefit. This is an awesome opportunity for our local entrepreneurs,” says Philip Marais, CEO of the LaunchLab.
Throughout the challenge, progress and news will be shared online and on social media platforms, using the hashtag #LLIdeas2018.