Honda wants to rely more on virtual reality in car design: some upcoming cars have already been developed without physical prototypes.
Virtual reality could establish itself as a stable element for 3D design and training in companies. Some companies have incorporated immersive technologies into their workflows.
A striking example is the luxury car manufacturer Bugatti: the design process for new Bugatti cars could be shortened by an entire year thanks to virtual reality, with savings amounting to around 440,000 euros, according to Bugatti.
The pandemic has been a driver for remote innovation at Honda
Honda has also been working with virtual reality for some time. During a press event, the Japanese automaker showed how immersive technology is used within the company.
“You can mature a design in a much shorter period of time,” a Honda representative said during a meeting with selected press representatives. Using high-end headsets from Varjo (see our review of the Varjo XR-3), journalists were able to try out various demos showing the results of different VR designs.
The vehicle design workflow involves replacing life-size clay models with a virtual vehicle in virtual reality. To that end, Honda 2020 has opened two VR studios, one in Tokyo and one in Torrance, California. Unlike Bugatti, which incorporated immersive technologies into its workflows early on, Honda’s innovation was driven by the Corona pandemic.
Thanks to VR headsets, designers had to travel less and were able to work together on prototypes remotely via VR. The first results of this work are currently rolling off the production line, such as the 2024 Honda Prologue electric car and the 2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport.
Honda increases efficiency with VR design
Honda mainly talked about the efficiencies brought by the new design process, such as time savings through faster iterations, less waste and less environmentally damaging travel.
But there are not only positive aspects. Some employees don’t seem to find it easy to break out of their traditional ways. Especially inside the vehicle, haptics are an important factor that makes the switch to virtual reality a challenge for designers, reports an employee of the automaker.
Still, the pros seem to outweigh the cons. “VR prototyping has removed the boundaries of interior design and allowed us to respond to feedback more quickly and collaborate more cohesively with HMI and color, material and finish design teams” said interior design project manager Lisa Lee.
“We don’t want to lose the emotion and human touch of Honda design, so we won’t be pursuing a purely digital approach, but we’re really excited about the Honda products that will be offered to customers in the future by taking advantage of the technology.” said Mathieu Geslin, Head of VR Technology at Honda Design Studios. They plan to continue exploring the technical possibilities of virtual reality and augmented reality in their development centers around the world in order to further improve the appeal and quality of their products.