Ford is more than ever now integrating VR into the way it designs its vehicles, and is now starting to explore how the technology could change the retail experience.
The advent of virtual reality (VR) technology is predicted to fundamentally change the way we live over the coming decades.
Cinemas will immerse audiences in VR movies, patients will undergo VR treatment and customers will enter the world of the products or services they are interested in, enabling a whole new dimension to the idea of sampling, or trying new things out. Cars are no different.
More than ever before, says Ford, it is integrating VR into the way it designs its vehicles, and is now starting to explore how the technology could change the retail experience.
“It really is a blank canvas,” said Jeffrey Nowak, global digital experience chief, Ford Motor Company.“ It is easy to imagine that someone who wants to buy an SUV could experience taking that car for a test drive over desert dunes without leaving the comfort of their home. Likewise, if you’re in the market for a city car you could be at home, relaxing in your PJs and fit in trying out the peak-time school run after you’ve put the kids to bed.”
Shoppers online can already try before they buy to find out how new glasses or clothes might suit them, or even what a new car might look like outside their home. But according to Sheryl Connelly, Ford global trend and futuring manager, they are also sometimes baffled by an overwhelming choice that leads to “Decider’s Dilemma”.
“With the internet, consumers face an abundance of choice – impacting their attitudes toward commitment,” said Connelly. “Products and services are adapting to accommodate a ‘sampling society’ that prioritises trying over buying.”
The biggest trigger of car sales, after practical financial issues, is “purely emotional” and the test drive can be a crucial “first date” for the shopper and their potential next car. By enabling customers to try out different models at a time and place to suit them – and for as long as they want – VR could also mean customers have a much clearer idea of which car they want before they even step into a dealership. It could even enable customers to experience the unique new car smell of their preferred vehicle.
Ford is currently exploring the potential of a range of virtual and augmented reality technologies to layer digital holograms onto the real world that could within the next decade allow people to interact with every aspect of products at their convenience.
“We envisage that one day a customer could identify the model they are interested in – from the colour, to the exact finish of their interior – and the time and place they would like to simulate,” said Nowak. “That scenario could then be recreated on a bespoke basis. There really is no limit to the depth of detail. The possibilities are endless.”
Ford already makes extensive use of VR in design. A state-of-the-art facility within the Design Studio, in Cologne, in Germany, allows designers to fully experience a vehicle without the need for a physical prototype. This enables them to perfect the look of high quality materials, craftsmanship and finish more quickly and efficiently. For the all-new Ford Fiesta, designers were able to experience and confirm location of vehicle controls, dashboard layout and seating positions.
“People decide within three minutes if they love a product or not, and it is the same for your car,” said Amko Leenarts, Ford’s head of global interior design operations. “From the moment you get in, you form connections with the smell, the feel of the surfaces, or the sound of the car door closing and it’s very powerful if we – as designers – can help create the perfect experience for the customer.”
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.”