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Virtual Test Drives Could Soon Be Reality

Ford is developing a host of technologies to transform the retail experience with the VR technology, which it currently uses to design its vehicles

  • Shilpa Chopra
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Virtual Test Drives

The VR (virtual reality) technology might soon bring about a revolution in the car buying experience. Ford is developing a host of technologies to transform the retail experience with the VR technology, which it currently uses to design its vehicles. With focus on convenience, the virtual reality test drives would offer customers a great deal of experience from the comfort of their home. The VR test drives, as Jeffrey Nowak, global digital experience Chief, Ford Motor Company, explains will offer customers the liberty to take vehicles for drive to a far set location without stepping out of their house. “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.”

The online video, which is radically different from VR experience, has gained popularity among customers by influencing their purchasing decisions. These online videos are particularly popular in Asia Pacific regions against Europe and North America.

On the contrary Sheryl Conelly, Ford global trend and futuring manager, fears VR drives could trigger “Decider’s Dilemma” among customers due to a vast choice of vehicles. “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.”

How will it mutually benefit customers and carmakers?

With this technology, the carmakers can play the emotional card, the primary reason behind most of the purchases. The VR test drives allow taking a number of models for drive at a time to a suitable place from the convenience of home.

Another benefit is the clarity of choice before customers reach dealership to make a purchase. Additionally, Ford is also working on a host of virtual and augmented reality technologies to integrate with digital holograms or the three-dimensional images. These technologies will allow customers to interact with every aspect of the products.

“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. That scenario could then be recreated on a bespoke basis,” said Nowak. “There really is no limit to the depth of detail. The possibilities are endless.”

Aside the virtual showroom, Ford is also making extensive use of VR in designing which allows designers to make necessary alterations on different aspects such as safety, craftsmanship, quality of material etc without even getting a physical prototype. Ford has a virtual-reality facility in India along with other countries including United States, Germany, China, India, Brazil, Mexico and Australia.

“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.”

 

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