The workshop of the future: How augmented reality could help vehicle professionals

28. Feb 2021 | Industry + More

"The only constant is change" - this was something Greek philosopher Heraklit realised many years ago. The was a man with an astounding foresight. His statement still holds true 2,500 years later and is probably even more applicable than ever. The automotive industry is all too familiar with the concept. Electromobility, digital transformation, automated driving or state-of-the-art driver assistance systems, to name just a few of the current and future topics that also focus on vehicle workshops today or in the future. Following our new series of articles on the "workshop of the future" focusing on exoskeleton cells, we are now taking a look at the possibilities offered by augmented reality.

Augmented reality (AR) refers to computer-based representation, which augments the real world with virtual aspects. Admittedly, this is a somewhat long-winded definition. A practical example explains the whole concept better: In some cases, car manufacturers have started offering the manuals for their new models as a smartphone app. For example, Audi allows vehicle owners to explore their car interactively: Moving the smartphone over the dashboard provides information directly on the screen of the smartphone for the function and operation of the buttons and displays in question, which are included in the image of the dashboard on the smartphone. The real world and the virtual world merge.

Augmented reality is already being tested in automotive workshops

To use augmented reality applications, either a smartphone, tablet or special glasses, as well as the appropriate software, are required, for example as an app. Numerous companies such as Schaeffler, Continental, Bosch or Hella Gutmann have already tested applications in workshop use, or are already using them in training courses.

What sounds like the next necessary evil for vehicle owners could prove to be a helpful support on closer consideration. For example, Bosch tested augmented reality in a field study in conjunction with vehicle professionals: Helpful information on certain components and systems focused on by the service technician was added to the image on the tablet screen and the display of the data glasses. The result: The augmented reality applications saved an average time of 15 percent per process.

Support with increasingly complex vehicle technology

Particularly in times where vehicle technology is becoming ever more complex, augmented reality could make an important contribution to efficient work in automotive companies in the future. Complex repairs and maintenance work in particular can be greatly simplified with the corresponding applications and the appropriate devices. Work on vehicles and systems that vehicle mechatronics engineers have little experience in would also be optimised with augmented reality. Just consider high-voltage technology or intelligent assistance systems, which often cause even experienced automotive professionals to break out into a sweat.

Using specific work instructions and step-by-step instructions, technicians can be instructed accordingly for challenging work. Just like with a solution from Continental for repair and service. The diagnostic solution shows a live image of the engine on the display and guides the technician through the repair process by displaying the components that have to be processed next.

In addition, AR systems could also provide support where components are hidden behind panelling by visualising the position on the respective device.

So modern technology can be a useful aid for automotive companies - providing it is available at a fair price. But one thing is clear: Augmented reality will not replace a good vehicle specialist. And that’s a good thing.