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Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Using Augmented Reality Glasses to Assist With Servicing

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【Summary】Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is testing out a new pilot program that uses augmented reality (AR) to assist with service and maintenance.

Eric Walz    Mar 12, 2018 2:27 PM PT
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Using Augmented Reality Glasses to Assist With Servicing
author: Eric Walz   

As today's modern vehicles get more complex, so do the service procedures. Service technicians working on Volkswagen's commercial vans in the UK are about to get some additional help from remote experts (mentors) via wearable augmented reality glasses from RealWear.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is testing out a new pilot program that uses augmented reality (AR) to assist with service and maintenance, thereby reducing downtime for VW's commercial customers. The program is beginning as a four month long pilot of RealWear HMT-1 glasses technology in ten VW Van Centers, ahead of a planned national roll out.

The augmented reality platform enables experts to send precise visual instructions remotely to Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Van Center and field technicians. For the wearer, the service instructions "appear" in front of them on a virtual display that looks like a 7 inch Android tablet.

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By putting on a pair of  state-of-the-art RealWear glasses, technicians will be able to connect directly with the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles' Technical Support Center office in Milton Keynes in the UK. This virtual assistance will significantly reduce service times, as technicians will be provided remote assistance throughout the diagnosis and repair of the vehicle.

The Real Wear glasses include a high-performance HD camera and noise cancelling microphones enables mentors located anywhere in the world to see what the worker is seeing, hear them clearly and coach them in real-time. By wearing the glasses, workers have their hands free to immediately perform the steps that they are being remotely coached on.

For example, a remote expert can provide directions and guidance, as well as push relevant documents to their display. In addition, a few experienced technicians can support many of their less experienced colleagues with real-time guidance. For VW's commercial customers, the result is reduced downtime, travel costs and repeated visits to a service facility.

The RealWear glasses act as a virtual technical support agent, guiding technicians through complex repairs by augmenting images, wiring diagrams, and adding repair suggestions into their view while talking them through the necessary diagnostic steps.

If the pilot is successful from now until June 2018, the technology will be rolled out to all Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles technicians including those that work across the brand's Mobile Service Clinics that operate across the country.

Paul Anderson, Service Operations Manager at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said: "This is an exciting step forward in maximizing uptime for our customers through the use of augmented reality and remote diagnostic tools. Our ultimate aim is to ensure we can keep the customers' vehicles on the road for longer and that means reducing the time it takes to repair a vehicle when it's in the workshop.

"The new devices allow our team of Technical Support Agents to support our network with a virtual visit which is as close as possible to the real thing – without the limitations. Factors such as time out of the office, speed to booking and travel time are stripped out leaving only the value of having our technical support agents virtually in the Van Center to support the diagnostic process. There's clearly an environmental benefit in this approach too."

Augmented Reality, when combined with existing digital services such as screen-sharing of diagnostic equipment and remote control of vehicle functions when in the workshop has proven to be a powerful tool in the early stages of the pilot.

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RealWear's HTM-1 Headset

Anderson said,  "We believe this has future benefits beyond this application to support one-to-many coaching and providing a fast-link back to the Van Center for Mobile Service Technicians."

He added, "The benefits to the business are also clear. Through the reduction of diagnostic times we will have a direct impact on mobility costs which takes pressure off courtesy fleets and opens up additional capacity within the Van Center to become more productive. This in turn leads to a happier and more invested workforce who feel fully supported by the manufacturer which will have an impact on costly attrition rates."

John McNally, Service Director at the Cordwallis Volkswagen Van Center is a part of the team involved in the pilot program and said: "We have now started our augmented reality trial to help us deal with repairs and customer issues. I strongly believe that the technology will help us to work better as a network and will definitely improve our customer services in the near future.

"We have introduced our customers to the concept and have received extremely positive feedback on the use of this technology. We can already see substantial benefits and are expecting to see continued success when the program is rolled out nationally."

RealWear is headquartered in Vancouver, Washington with additional offices in Silicon Valley and Shanghai. Last month, the AR startup announced that it has raised $17 million in a Series A round led by Columbia Ventures Corporation.

In September of 2017, RealWear received the Frost & Sullivan 2017 North American New Product Innovation Award in the industrial wearables market for its HTM-1 headset.

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