In this first installment of a four-part series on augmented reality in the automotive industry, we look at the business challenges and opportunities the industry faces right now.
The automotive industry has faced huge and convulsive changes over the last decade. Famous brands such as Plymouth, Mercury and Pontiac disappeared, Chrysler and General Motors were bailed out by the US government and automobile manufacturing became more of a global enterprise than ever.
Meanwhile, government regulations designed to increase energy efficiency and reduce emissions have driven changes in the way that cars are designed. Public policy has also spurred the growth of a new and growing market for electric and hybrid vehicles – and the emergence of a rare successful new car company in the form of Tesla.
According to consulting giant KPMG’s Global Automotive Executive Survey 2017, which consulted 953 senior executives (including CEOs, presidents and board chairs), the development of battery electric vehicles, hybrid cars and the increasing importance of vehicle connectivity and digitalization are the trends keeping most of the survey respondents up at night.
In addition, the survey found that the industry is facing the challenge of evolutionary, revolutionary and disruptive changes all at once. Not all of the changes have to do with the design of – or technology used in – vehicles themselves.
Some of the anticipated changes actually have to do with broader societal trends – such as the growth of what KPMG calls “Mobility as a Service” (MaaS).
This trend is used to describe the growing number of people using car-sharing services (such as ZipCar) or ride-sharing services (such as Uber and Lyft) instead of owning their own cars.
In addition, cars are becoming vastly more complex. A 2017 Automotive Industry Trends report from PwC offers some keen observations on just how deep those changes go.
"New technologies such as 3D laminated glass, haptic sensors, and augmented reality heads-up displays — which offer drivers alerts, safety aids, and warnings on invisible screens embedded in the windshield — have entered the vocabulary of traditional suppliers," the PwC report observes. "Large navigation and entertainment display screens in the dashboard offer Web-based information and media as well as data arrays picked up from networked roads and other cars."
Even as huge technological and societal changes look to impact the future of car design, the very complexity of the resulting vehicles makes them more expensive to build and more challenging to service. And this is happening at a time when there's a significant need globally for more skilled employees to help make and service the growing number of increasingly complex cars in use around the world.
In the United States, a recent joint survey by consulting firm KPMG and the auto industry’s Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA) underscored this need. More than half of respondents in the 2017 OESA KPMG AutoPulse Survey said they expect access to highly skilled/technical labor will get worse.
Access to highly skilled and technical labor is, of course, one of the challenges that augmented reality solutions are uniquely designed to help industrial enterprises solve. By using the "remote expert" and "see what I see" technologies offered in AR solutions such as Air Enterprise, companies can leverage the skill and experience of remote experts to help maintenance, repair and operations staff to troubleshoot the increasingly complex and varied work that they are asked to do.
In the second part of our series. we'll look at specific automotive industry scenarios for which augmented reality technology can provide real and immediate benefit by improving time to resolution, quality of work and safety.