Honda is renouncing a design methodology that has (literally) defined the auto industry since the 1930s.

The $43 billion business still uses life-size clay models, a tried-and-true technique created by GM designer Harley Earl, to assess its ideas. But since the Coronavirus ravaged the world and the ensuing lockdowns split its teams in Los Angeles, Ohio, and Japan, Honda is gradually relying less on the technique. According to Honda, the early 2020 travel regulations “threatened” the capacity of its designers to collaborate with engineers on the ’24 Prologue, opening the door for a deeper exploration of virtual reality.

Honda created two VR studios

Honda created two VR studios in Torrance, California, and Tokyo by July 2020 so that its teams could provide feedback on revisions of interiors and exteriors without having to fly. After around 2.5 years, the automaker reported that designs it tested in virtual reality are now being produced.

When inviting press to visit its SoCal facility last week, the company said that “you can mature a design in a significantly quicker time period” in VR. The studio, which was about half the size of an NBA court, easily accommodated numerous reporters and over a dozen Honda employees, many of whom were wearing branded button-up shirts.

Numerous Varjo headsets, monitors installed on box trusses, and three demo stations for looking inside or “sitting” in virtual automobiles, such as the ’23 Pilot and ’24 Prologue EV, were visible all throughout the area. In a setup that reminded me of this Hyundai press shot from 2019, two stations had real-life steering wheels, gas pedals, and doors, while one station was fully virtual. Numerous other automakers have used VR to illustrate their work, including Ford and Bugatti.¬†What effect did it have on the Pilot? Now that some of Honda’s staff spends more time in virtual rooms, can automobile consumers expect anything new?

Honda provided a detailed description,

Honda hasn’t, as far as I can determine, provided a detailed description of what, if anything, is unique about vehicles improved in virtual reality. The automaker emphasised efficiency instead. One of the numerous experiments carried out, according to a statement, “included color evaluation in a VR environment, which is valuable for the color, materials, and finishes team to perceive all trimmings holistically, providing quick feedback between the design studios in LA and Japan.” I see, well!

Honda employees demonstrated how VR allowed them to quickly update designs so that they could be assessed later that day, saving them time on model development. Customers may not notice, at least for the time being, how VR has affected Honda car design. Hondas will remain Hondas, virtual or not.

Honda also declined to specify the number of clay prototypes it creates before mass producing a car or an SUV.

I wish I could remember who said this.

Honda argued that VR was really accelerating and simplifying processes as I attempted to maintain a balance between the virtual and real worlds. The manufacturer did not, however, confirm if it would pass on to customers the time saved by its designers in the shape of lower prices. Honda was also careful to point out that, unlike Bugatti, it would not “pursue a totally digital strategy.” Honda’s VR chief Mathieu Geslin gave physical models credit for preserving the “emotion and the human touch” of the company’s vehicles.

Inquired

. I inquired if anyone at the business had trouble adjusting to VR after taking off a headset and entering the room. According to a staff member, certain designers, particularly those who work in interiors, “enjoy touching things. It’s a little bit of a change for them because they like touching things, they said, adding that virtual evaluations are “hard to take sometimes.”

It’s possible that Honda’s move toward VR is also making its design team more environmentally friendly because it reduces the amount of executive jet travel and model revisions that would otherwise end up in a landfill. VR won’t likely significantly reduce emissions, though, given the scale of mass production and the durability of combustion engines. Although Honda has set a deadline for being all electric, this won’t happen for many more years.

By Larry

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