With the automotive industry coming under strain for quicker development of new products, as well as increasing sales, the use of new-age technologies is the direction the industry is treading. Design solution providers like Tata Elxsi have been developing various tools with new-generation technologies to help customers achieve goals of reduced development times and increased sales. In an interaction with Anil Sondur, Executive Vice President, Industrial Design and Visual Content, Tata Elxsi, we find out about some of these new technologies and how they are impacting the entire ecosystem of the automotive industry.
Tata Elxsi has historically been a company that has focused exclusively on product and technology development consultancy, which is unique to the company in India and the global market. With this core view, Tata Elxsi has always tried to pick up trends at the early start-points, develop those capabilities and then take it to the market, said Sondur. In line with this, the company has been one of the first to cover the areas of autonomous driving, as well as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-everything (V2X). Additionally, over the last couple of years, Tata Elxsi has begun focussing on new trends in visualisation technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Immersive Reality (IR). These visualisation technologies are going to impact various industries, noted Sondur.
Within the automotive industry, there are trends that are still at very early stages of development, including visualisation technologies, autonomous driving covering V2V/V2X, and electric vehicles. Tata Elxsi is working on developing tools that its customers can use to improve the overall end-consumer experience in the automotive industry. Sondur observed that this especially holds good since the automotive industry has always been the first to adopt new technologies.
The automotive industry has been facing two major challenges since inception – reducing product development times, and selling the product, said Sondur. New visualisation technologies help in building virtual prototypes instead of physical ones, which results in reduced development times and costs. Until now, visualisation technologies offered only 2D view of the real environment, but through IR, a 3D, 360° view of the environment can be created. This makes the evaluation of a product design or prototype much easier than earlier. This technology not only allows minute levels of evaluation of the product, but also enables one to experience the product in various environments. An important development on the part of Tata Elxsi concerning visual technologies is the collaborative piece, where people from different locations can see the same product and interact on it for further discussion.
In terms of sales of vehicles, the process of vehicle-buying goes through various stages, which include first connect with the customer, followed by their first experience, and finally in the physical experience of the vehicle. From the view of the dealership, there is a cost factor at play in terms of setting up the showroom and stocking cars for test drives. The visual technologies provide a good opportunity to create a virtual experience for a particular stage of time, with only the final process involving the physical vehicle, Sondur said. This would impact the ability to reach out to more customers and bring down costs dramatically, he added.
Visual technologies like AR and VR can also be used in the aftersales business of the automotive industry. They can help to digitally view systems in order to diagnose component health and performance. While VR can be used to digitally-view simpler systems like wiring harnesses, more complex systems like diagnostics software can make use of AR, said Sondur. He also said that like the company’s solution for simulating offshore oil rigs, it could develop tools to help in factors like engine disassembly for training and quality.
Talking about the influence of visual technologies in vehicle or component design space, Sondur said that visualisation tools are the biggest tool any designer would use. So far designers had limited access to tools that could provide an immersive experience, in terms of evaluating their own designs, he added. However today, primarily with IR technology, one can not only view their design in 3D across various environments, but can also make changes to the design at every stage of development, explained Sondur. This aspect of visual technologies enables designers to make very complex designs and then check their feasibility to be translated into a final product.
The ecosystem of V2V/V2X consists of communication companies, OEMs, wireless and data services companies, as well as technology consulting and software development providers. Tata Elxsi comes under the last category, said Sondur. Such test systems become important since different countries have different communication regulations, which results in the cost of validating vehicles becoming very high when it is carried out physically and country-specifically, he noted. The company’s V2V/V2X test systems enable off-board testing and can be positioned as a solution by itself.
Sondur said that visualisation is the area that Tata Elxsi is going to make as many strides a possible, by also bringing in 360° live action into the immersive environment. Such an immersive environment and merging of live 360° footage from one location could provide digital presence of the entire environment in another location. While the 3D content is available, the company is working on merging footage to complete this entire process. This development will be assisted with the revolution taking place in the camera space, in terms of enabling more collaborative development work, Sondur concluded.
TEXT: Naveen Arul