As the manufacturer of some of the world’s most sophisticated cars, as well as a champion in the world of motorsports, Mercedes-Benz is no slouch when it comes to cutting-edge technology.
However, there is one area of technology where the German carmaker has been particularly enthusiastic in recent years, and that’s the field of virtual reality and augmented reality (VR/ AR) – sometimes collectively referred to as extended reality (XR).
These two technologies are closely related, but where they differ is that VR places the user inside an entirely computer-generated world, whereas AR superimposes computer graphics over the wearer’s view of the real world.
Both have proven popular with carmakers for a variety of applications, connected with marketing, engineering, and customer experience. However, Mercedes-Benz has found many innovative ways to put them to work. Here’s an overview of some of the most interesting applications and how they play a key part in the prestigious car manufacturer’s digital transformation strategy.
Mercedes-Benz designers, engineers, and manufacturers make use of VR technology in a number of ways during the process of conceptualizing and constructing vehicles. This year, the company began a partnership with Nvidia focused on the use of the chipset manufacturer’s Omniverse platform. This is a VR-enabled “digital twin” collaborative environment for 3D design.
Even before this, the company was known for pioneering new methods of creating realistic 3D models inside VR environments where they can be tested in a wide variety of scenarios and conditions without the risk of damage to expensive prototype vehicles or injuries to human test drivers.
They are also heavily involved with innovative AR design methods, which are used to help designers visualize how components will fit together during the manufacturing process. AR is also used to enable more experienced engineers and designers to provide remote assistance to newbies and trainees in the engineering environment.
And in Canada, the company has equipped all of its service centers with AR-enabled repair solutions utilizing Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 AR headsets alongside its Dynamics 365 remote collaborative conferencing platform to create a system called Mercedes-Benz Virtual Remote Support. This removes the need to fly specialists across the country to dealerships to solve unique or unusual problems. Local technicians can now simply put on their headsets and get on-the-spot advice from specialists and experts while seeing information such as wiring diagrams and schematics overlaid directly onto the part of the car they are working on.
Mercedes-Benz was one of the first car companies to launch a VR showroom, where online visitors can check out detailed representations of the latest and most luxurious exteriors and interiors. They can walk around the vehicles to examine them from every angle as well as open doors, sit in the seats, and even start up the engines or interact with features such as the in-car entertainment system and sunroof. The company has worked with a number of platforms and content creators over the years to enable its customers and potential customers to experience their cars from the comfort of their own homes. Taking part in a VR test drive can be as simple as plugging a headset into your PC and hitting Youtube.
Mercedes-Benz has also created smartphone apps that enable users to experience vehicle features and functionality in a number of ways through interactive experiences. For example, users can scan a QR code on a showroom vehicle brochure or plinth to receive relevant information, and videos beamed directly to their screen.
If you’re considering buying a car, you can also use AR functionality built into the app to see exactly how your model will look in a variety of different colors or parked outside your own home.
Driver and Customer Experience
One of the most exciting ways that Mercedes-Benz has adopted AR is to enhance the experience of driving its cars. For a while now, it’s been possible for drivers of high-end models to effectively turn their windscreens into an AR-enabled screen.
Vital information such as speed of travel and lane assist information is beamed directly to the driver, as well as navigation information and indicators showing the distance between the car and the vehicle in front. These features also incorporate eye-tracking, so the position and size of the projected information can be moved so it is always in an optimal position taking into account the driver’s head movements.
Drivers also have access to AR functionality within the Mercedes Me app, such as the Ask Mercedes feature, which allows them to point their camera at a part of their car and receive information about how it works and how it can be operated.
AR is also used to provide after-sales support, giving hints and advice on-screen to help customers troubleshoot technical problems and connecting them with experts who can offer remote assistance if needed.
This is one of the areas where we can expect to see a great deal of innovation in the future, with Mercedes-Benz, along with other car makers, investing in the development of AR-enabled windows and mirrors that will give information about the car’s performance and environment directly to the driver, eliminating the need for them to take their eyes off the road in order to check their instruments.
A final example of where Mercedes-Benz uses VR and AR technology can be found in its training programs for staff and employees. All staff have access to the Mercedes-Benz Global Training platform, which provides a broad spectrum of courses covering the knowledge and skills they may need to do their jobs. Some of these modules include VR and AR experiences, offering hands-on training on troubleshooting technical issues and dealing with customer service inquiries.
This is a growing space for XR in many industries besides automotive, as the technology has shown itself to be capable when it comes to onboarding staff, assessing knowledge, enabling supervised on-the-job training, and reducing the cost and wastage associated with training in a real-world environment.
Foto: How Mercedes-Benz Uses Virtual And Augmented Reality to Sell Cars, Train Staff, And Create New Customer ExperiencesADOBE STOCK