The New York International Auto Show underscored how much augmented reality and virtual reality are shaping the conversation about the future of the automotive industry. As reported in CNBC and The New York Times, auto makers and vendors were busy showcasing AR and VR experiences to complement the vehicles. For instance:

  • Toyota used VR headsets to show people what it might be like to ride in the Toyota Comfort Ride concept car, an autonomous vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
  • Honda used an AR experience called the Honda Lens to give people an interactive tour of different Honda car features without requiring the user to look under the hood.

Automotive companies are relying on AR and VR to improve the way dealerships service the customer and to improve the product itself. Here are a few examples:

Improving the Product

Automakers and technology firms are applying augmented reality to design a safer and easier future driving experience. For instance, Chrysler is collaborating with automotive equipment maker Harman to figure out how to incorporate AR in its autos. Chrysler envisions the use of AR to overlay virtual street signs on the driver’s windshield, thus reducing the distraction caused by drivers straining to see hard-to-find physical signs.

In addition, auto makers are using augmented reality to help people learn how to use their cars. As reported in Next Reality News, BMW and Hyundai’s Genesis imprint are among the automakers incorporating augmented reality into owner’s manuals. According to the article, “When installed on the owner’s mobile device, the apps use computer vision to identify components of the interior cabin or engine, overlaying relevant information over the car’s real-world components to take the mystery out of owning an automobile once and for all.”

Improving the Selling Experience

Porsche has launched the Mission E Augmented Reality App to make it possible for customers to experience Porsche’s first purely electric sports car. The Mission E is still a few years away from actual launch. The app acts as a pre-selling tool by giving customers a peek at what’s to come. As Kjell Gruner, vice president marketing at Porsche AG, said in a press release, “The augmented reality technology offers us ways to depict complex technical aspects of the new vehicle technology vividly and emotively. It is important to us that our customers can immerse themselves in tomorrow’s technology and convey enthusiasm at an early stage – any time, any place.”

Augmented reality and virtual reality can also help automotive dealerships enhance the customer experience. For example, Audi and Cadillac are among the automakers testing the use of VR at the dealership level. With VR, dealerships can empower customers at the dealership to test and configure different car features conveniently at the lot. As Audi mentions on its website, “The configured Audi is experienced in three dimensions and 360 degrees, with all light and sound effects. Various environments, times of day, and light conditions also contribute to the true-to-life virtual experience of sitting in the car. The interior can also be observed from every perspective, down to the surface of the decorative inlays, depending on the position relative to the virtual light source.”

Go Where Your Customers Are

At a time when dealers are competing against the threat of Amazon, AR and VR give them a way to create a better experience on the lot, where the purchase decision is made. In addition, as the Porsche Mission E Augmented Reality app shows, these immersive reality experiences can redefine the notion of place from the lot to the customer’s living room. As entrepreneur Cory Mosley mentioned recently during a CBT interview at NADA, “Dealers have to ask, ‘Where are my customers? Then go where they are.” Augmented and virtual reality help dealerships do just that.