As we outlined in Part 1 of this series on Augmented Reality and the automotive industry, the challenges facing the automotive industry are complex - and no single "magic bullet" will solve all of them.
Dealing with uncertainty
In addition to all of the broader trends around in-car and drivetrain technology, changing customer demand, government regulation and skills shortages, there are a number of uncertainties that the auto industry has to contend with. One of those was highlighted by PwC in its recent assessment of Global Automotive Mergers and Acquisitions as part of an analysis of how the sector how can be impacted by changes in trade policy (see chart below).
“The auto sector is a case study in how a change in US trade policy could affect the entire supply chain. A large portion of Mexican exports to the US are auto parts which are then used in the numerous auto manufacturing plants across the US,” observed PwC analysts in the report.
“Mexico exports over $60 billion in auto parts to the US and Canada each year, accounting for much of its trade surplus with the US. (In return, the US and Canada ship almost $30 billion in auto parts to Mexico.) Higher tariffs could push automakers and suppliers into rethinking the location of production.”
The broader issue at play here is that the industry has to be prepared for this kind of uncertainty – and be nimble and flexible enough to deal with the impact of it. Automotive companies need to have strategies that provide ways in which expertise in manufacturing, repairs and operations can be accessed remotely – leveraging new augmented reality and “wearable” technology solutions.
Augmented Reality provides a unique solution
One very specific application of wearable and handheld technologies lies with Augmented Reality (AR) solutions - which provide a way to mitigate many of the challenges highlighted earlier.
Before we start looking in detail at the ways in which AR technology can help the automotive industry, let's take a step back and define what Augmented Reality is.
AR is best described as the real world augmented by computer-generated sensory input. It is commonly delivered through head-mounted displays (also known as "smart glasses”), that are connected both to a phone-sized computer and to a collaborative network.
This allows people to interact with:
- content that is displayed "virtually" in front of them via the smart glasses (which can include task lists, shop manuals, videos and online content)
- the functions of the computing power in the smart glasses or attached smartphone or tablet - using voice commands, head movements, the trackpad that's built into the side of some smart glasses or "gestures" (ie. commands delivered by hand movements of the smart glasses wearer and picked up by the front-facing on-board camera in the smart glasses)
- remote users through video-conferencing capabilities that offer a "see what I see" function that lets everyone on the video conference call see what the person who is speaking sees through their smart glasses
In the third part of this series, we'll take look at a situation where the principles of Augmented Reality helped solve an extremely rare automotive repair scenario.