Automotive brands find themselves at a fascinating watershed in society’s evolution. As is typical of periods of dramatic change, this presents many opportunities and new innovations that communicate with their customers, says TREVOR HILL, Head of Audi SA.
Vehicle manufacturers have had to innovate in developing more integrated mobility solutions and invest heavily in technology and innovation across the entire automotive value chain. These new innovations form part of the digital revolution within the automotive industry.
As a global, premium and innovative automotive brand, Audi‘s digitalisation journey can be found in many areas of the business. The application of artificial intelligence opens up a new dimension of performance for both the product and the entire value chain. As a digital car company, Audi is digitising all processes at the company: from product development with virtual reality; creating a factory environment with intelligent robots and to retail showrooms with the latest digital technology.
Since 2003, Audi has been using virtually created 3D models as a firm element of its vehicle development process. The company is now also testing a so-called virtual reality holodeck so that the design of new automobile models can be virtually assessed at an early stage. With the VR holodeck, a realistic impression of the proportions of future Audi models is obtained and allows employees from development and production to virtually assess the structure of a vehicle before it goes into production.
Additional areas in which virtual-reality technologies are already applied at Audi include virtual training for employees in packing logistics and the Audi VR experience for customer advice. The latter allows potential customers to virtually configure their desired car and to experience all optional equipment in a realistic way.
These digital advancements have presented an exciting time for automotive companies who are prepared to rise to the challenge within the retail environment.
The process of purchasing a car, for instance, needs to be completely re-evaluated. The old ways of driving out to a showroom on the edge of town to ask a Dealer for his advice are numbered. Today, thanks to the internet, we can all educate ourselves about our options, our price range and our preferences before we even set foot into a Dealer showroom. The average customer is quite knowledgeable by the time he or she meets a sales person for the first time.
The role of company staff has thus changed from being providers of information, to being brand experience custodians.
At Audi, we know that when customers come to us, they already have som experience of our brand. Now they’re looking for a heightened level of engagement with us. They want to feel and live the brand. We learned some years ago that this can mean a lot more than going for a test drive around the block. An example of this is the Audi City showrooms or the Audi Customer Private Lounge concept.
These showrooms, currently in London, Beijing, Berlin, Paris, Moscow and Istanbul, are interactive experiences that reinvent how a customer goes about buying a car. The virtual, digital nature of these showrooms means that they can be located in the heart of central business districts, where space is at a premium, and can recreate every one of the hundreds of millions of designs combinations which Audi offers, as the client customises the car of his or her choice.
Floor-to-ceiling screens – called powerwalls – produce an immersive experience as the customer creates the Audi of their dreams in photo-real detail, selecting the model variant and every specific detail with the assistance of an Audi professional. Whether you want an Audi A5 with Java Brown paintwork, leather upholstery and red stitching, or a Vegas Yellow Audi Q2 with stylish wheels, you can create your dream vehicle on a tablet device, and then see it projected before your eyes.
Test drives can be arranged for a later date, but the power of the virtual brand experience is such, that a significant percentage of customers already choose to purchase their Audis without ever having driven a test vehicle!
At the Berlin showroom, we find that customers spend on average of 25% more on their purchases of Audi cars, as the showroom brings their custom specifications to life. The digital showroom concept has already been integrated into many of the Dealerships worldwide.
The idea is to move towards seamlessly integrated automotive shopping, buying and owning – across whichever channel the customer prefers. This all serves to enhance the brand experience, which has now been effectively separated or used to support the physical brick-and-mortar terminal.
The traditional Audi Dealership will also evolve and expand on as the brand prepares itself for the introduction of fully electric vehicles under the Audi e-tron umbrella. Dealerships would need to accommodate for charging station infrastructure and the subsequent storage facilities for the vehicles.
The rise of the sharing economy has seen an increase in ride-hailing and car-sharing services, which means – among other things – that fewer customers are feeling the need to own a car. Automotive manufacturers like Audi are also looking beyond traditional ownership models, and investing in “shared mobility” alternatives, what we term as Audi On Demand. In the future, the success of our companies will be measured in “kilometres travelled” as opposed to “vehicles sold”.
The digital revolution is tangible at Audi. For us, Vorsprung goes far beyond the car. With everything we do, we want to make our customers’ lives easier. We give them time, connect them with their environment, and offer them sustainable solutions and unique experiences.
Car tech rules CES Asia
More than 60 automotive brands will highlight their latest innovations at the Asia edition of CES in Shanghai in June.
The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has revealed that vehicle technology show floor space at CES Asia 2019 will double in size and showcase technology advances which make cars safer and more connected.
More than 60 global auto brands including Audi, Honda, Hyundai, Kia and Nissan will feature their latest innovations in vehicle technology across two major indoor exhibit halls, the event’s largest-ever vehicle tech footprint. CES Asia attendees will experience the latest concept cars and connected vehicles from self-driving to all-electric, making transportation safer and greener. CES Asia will run from 11 to 13 June 2019 at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre Center (SNIEC) in Shanghai, China.
CES Asia show director John T. Kelley said: “Today, every company is a tech company. Traditional automotive manufacturers are joining vehicle tech newcomers to exhibit at CES Asia, the perfect platform that brings together different industries to showcase their latest technologies in self-driving, clean energy and smart navigation features. CES Asia uniquely challenges the traditional auto shows in targeting the world’s largest auto market – China.”
German auto giant Volkswagen will join forces with Beijing-based Mobvoi for their CES Asia debut showcasing the latest development of AI coming to Volkswagen’s future cars. Inceptio Technology is another first-time exhibitor to demonstrate next generation self-driving technologies for trucks and transportation services. Other first-time exhibitors include Denso, FAW Hongqi, Great Wall Motor, Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, Hyundai Mobis, and Polestar. 3M, Bose, Continental, NIRA Dynamics AB, OnStar, Opus Microsystems, Smart Eye AB and United Automotive Electronic Systems are just a few of the notable exhibitors returning to the automotive show floor at CES Asia 2019.
CES Asia 2019 will focus on AI, 5G, Vehicle Tech, and startups from around the world. The show is expected to feature 550+ exhibiting companies, including more than 125 startups and represents the full technology ecosystem with innovations spanning 20 product categories. For the fourth year in a row, the United States Department of Commerce (USDOC) has granted Trade Fair Certification for CES Asia 2019, a formal federal endorsement of CES Asia as a recognized opportunity to showcase U.S. products and services overseas.
Visit CESAsia.com to register now and find more event details. WeChat registration for CES Asia 2019 is also available now. Follow us on WeChat (ID: CESAsia_II) to register.
How cars can stop flu
The car of the future could help win the battle against superbugs – according to Jaguar Land Rover. Future models could help stop the spread of colds and flu thanks to innovative ultraviolet light technology (UV-C) borrowed from the medical industry, where it has been used for more than 70 years.
By integrating UV-C, Jaguar Land Rover believes it could help to stop bacteria and harmful viruses, known as pathogens, from surviving in the cabin. UV-C is currently widely used for disinfecting water, filtering air and sterilising surfaces by utilising wavelengths of light between 200 – 280 nanometres.
Exposing pathogens to UV-C within the air conditioning system breaks down the molecular structure of the DNA, neutralising them. Clean air is then released into the cabin. The technology could even help in the fight against drug-resistant superbugs.
Jaguar Land Rover is exploring UV-C technology as part of its vision to create a tranquil sanctuary inside each of its luxury vehicles. The manufacturer is piloting a wide range of driver and passenger wellbeing features, as it looks towards a self-driving future.
Dr Steve Iley, Jaguar Land Rover chief medical officer, said: “The average motorist spends as much as 300 hours per year behind the wheel. There is a clear opportunity to better utilise cars for administering preventative healthcare.”
“The implementation of individual wellbeing measures as part of our ‘tranquil sanctuary’ research promises to not only improve quality of life for our customers but in this case, offers clear advantages in reducing pathogen spread – protecting the overall population from the threat of disease; particularly as we move towards shared mobility solutions.”
Jaguar Land Rover is already actively seeking to neutralise pathogens in its latest generation Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems, available across the range including the all-electric Jaguar I-PACE and Range Rover Sport. The current Four-zone Climate Control and Cabin Air Ionisation system works by using high voltage to create trillions of nano-sized negatively charged particles (ions) coated in water molecules. These ions deactivate pathogens, forming larger particles which are removed from the air as they are brought back into the filter. As well as combatting pathogens, the ions also act upon odour molecules and allergens in a similar way.
Dr Iley said: “In the colder months infections are spread more easily, it’s reassuring to know that in your car at least, you can be confident that harmful pathogens are being neutralised.”
Recent medical trials* suggest the use of UV-C could be even more effective as it has been shown to cut the transmission of four major superbugs by up to 30%. Researchers focused on four drug-resistant organisms: MRSA, vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), C. difficile and Acinetobacter.
Immunology expert, Dr. Hellmut Münch, CEO at Medical Enzyme Research Association, said: “The rise of superbugs and allergens is one of the largest threats we face as a species today. Investment in immunology is vital in ensuring that our immune systems stay ahead of the race against microorganisms, which are evolving far quicker than traditional pharmaceuticals can keep pace with. It is important that we continue to take an innovative look at how we can adapt our environment to help prevent the spread of the most harmful pathogens – which is why this research is paramount.”