Virtual Reality Test Drive Your Next Big Buy


Technological advances move quite quickly within the automotive industry. Whether to aid convenience, efficiency, or safety, technology is being tried and tested to make driving more unique, as well as matching a driver to a vehicle that suits their everyday needs when on the road.

Now, these advances have been implemented into the process of buying a car. Automotive dealers are continually researching ways to combine the ever-growing technologies with buyers’ demands by offering new digital experiences.

The process for a consumer finally deciding what they want usually involves five key stages: recognition of needs and wants, information search, evaluation of choices, purchase and post-purchase evaluation.

These five key stages also apply to the automotive industry. This will go from the initial interest or need, through researching vehicle specifications, comparing prices with different manufacturers online, testing the vehicle to validate its features before finally purchasing. It is fair to say that the virtual reality test drive is an innovative experience, which would fall between the evaluation phase and the actual purchase.

Experts define virtual reality as an artificial technology which is used to create or access a virtual reality, giving the opportunity to simulate real-world situations. It aims to create a sensory experience and it often involves sight, touch, hearing, smell, or taste. In the automotive sector, the development of virtual reality has helped buyers to test a vehicle in a digital form.  

In this article we introduce the concept of Enter Sandbox, implemented on a virtual reality test drive of an Audi Q5 back in 2018. But, whether it’s a Ferrari, Lamborghini or Bentley the next time you go shopping, the concept still rings true.

The virtual reality industry is said to be rapidly expanding. Data from Statista predicts that the market size of consumer virtual reality is expected to increase from $6.2 billion in 2019 to over $16 billion by 2022.

Its expansion may well accelerate, with the likes of French tech company Dassault Systems seeing an increased interest in its 3DExcite virtual showroom due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Using a combination of virtual and augmented reality, they can provide retailers with up-to-date product visuals and information online. A potential green tick for consumers reluctant to visit showrooms and forecourts and for retailers who need to claw back declining sales.

Besides avoiding unnecessary human interaction, wouldn’t it be cool to know what a virtual reality experience of your next luxury set of wheels feels like? Start by picturing yourself in the following scenario. You’ve been wanting a new sports car to test out the world-famous Col de Turini, or to arrive in style on the Las Vegas Boulevard, which you’re now considering purchasing. It’s a brand-new model but you’ve seen a handful of luxury motors that you can’t quite decide between.

So, you sit down wanting to find out more. You spend time browsing a variety of sites, read blog reviews, and look at the car’s full specification. You meticulously analyse engine options, the latest gadgets and which one suits your style the most. You make your overall ‘must have’ list and ensure you have collected all the information to meet such requirements. Then you read about something you hadn’t heard of before. In the past an Audi Q5 has had its quattro drive technology virtually tested. So now you’re looking to experience the same thing, you wish to try that same real-time virtual drive in the car you’ve been studying. Try before you buy has never been so fun.

A Dutch company, back in 2018, developed an in-store virtual reality experience by turning a physical sandbox into a virtual playground for petrolheads and all-round car lovers. The creative agency’s idea was to recreate a situation that could take people back to childhood moments like playing with toy cars. Off the back of this, the creativity blossomed.

In order to recreate a virtual environment that replicated a real driving experience, Enter Sandbox used a Kinect camera and an HTC Vive Lighthouse tracking system to scan every detail of a physical sandbox in 3D.

Then, users were offered the unique experience of an Audi Q5 simulator, virtually taking the driver’s seat and a simulated driving wheel, while sound and engine noises contributed to making the test drive experience authentic. Imagine the same sound and feel, testing out the latest models from the likes of Ferrari, McLaren, Bentley and Maserati.

This is an incredible example of innovation that our society is proud to have been part of. And while many remain firm on the idea that new automotive technologies such as artificial intelligence and driverless cars will never replace the traditional car industry, cutting edge technology such as virtual test drives show that technology is only going to go further, becoming more and more innovative.