Porsche Cars North America is rolling out augmented reality smart glasses that service center techs wear to troubleshoot problems with remote expert techs. Above: A service tech wearing the glasses.
ATLANTA — Google Glass smart glasses may have flopped with consumers, but similar technology is finding a place on the automotive shop floor.
Porsche Cars North America is rolling out augmented reality smart glasses that service center technicians will wear to troubleshoot problems with remote expert technicians — potentially saving time, dollars and human error.
The technology, which went live at three Porsche dealerships last week, will roll out to 75 stores by year end, and to most of Porsche’s 189 U.S. dealerships in 2019.
A service technician wearing the smart glasses at a dealership in Los Angeles can connect with the automaker’s technical support team 2,200 miles away in Atlanta. Via high-definition live video from the glasses, the support team sees what the tech is seeing.
The expert can project step-by-step technical bulletins and schematic drawings onto the display inside the service tech’s glasses, and take screen shots and enlarge images for better visibility. The service tech can open and view documents while working hands-free on the car.
Porsche is one of a few automakers to implement augmented reality smart glasses at scale, Eric Abbruzzese, principal analyst with ABI Research, told Automotive News.
The technology, called Tech Live Look, can shorten the time needed to resolve service problems by up to 40 percent, Porsche said. The technology eliminates the multiple emails, phone calls, photos and on-site visits by Porsche’s field technical managers to identify and diagnose problems for repair.
Tech Live Look is a “leap forward” for customer service and lets service experts and dealership technicians share information more efficiently, Porsche Cars North America CEO Klaus Zellmer told Automotive News in an email.
“As a result, two good things happen: The customer gets their sports car back sooner and the dealer’s service bay becomes available earlier for the next customer,” Zellmer said.
A service tech’s view in the glasses.
The use of wearables to do remote technical diagnosis has been studied for decades, said Thad Starner, professor of computing at Georgia Tech.
“The technology has only now gotten light enough to wear for extended periods of time,” said Starner, who helped develop Google Glass. “Wearables today are more like normal glasses. You can wear ’em all day … and stow quickly just by tucking them into your shirt collar.”
Cost remains a major obstacle to broader adoption of smart glasses technology.
The smart glasses cost the dealership $2,750 per pair, according to a Porsche spokesman. The investment likely does not include the licensing fees for the software that powers the technology.
Auto analyst Sam Abuelsamid expects to see broader adoption of augmented reality across the auto industry, especially around repair and service.
As new technology gets incorporated into vehicles, service techs are likely to encounter parts they’ve never seen before or problems they’ve never experienced before.
“If technicians have tools to call back to headquarters or the engineering center and get assistance diagnosing things, it can save a lot of time,” said Abuelsamid, senior analyst with Navigant Research. “That will pay off in customers bringing their vehicles back for service and repeat sales.”
A remote expert tech watches on the monitor.
Adoption of smart glasses is widest in the manufacturing, logistics and industrial markets, but the auto industry is embracing the technology.
Global smart glasses shipments for automotive industry use will hit 1.7 million pairs in 2022, according to ABI. The total automotive augmented reality market is expected to reach $5.5 billion in 2022.
While Porsche is using smart glasses, Audi relies on robots to connect dealership service bays with experts at the company’s technical center.
The system can connect with onboard diagnostic devices in vehicles. It enables experts at Audi’s tech center in Auburn Hills, Mich., to see everything the dealership tech does, discuss diagnosis and repair options and link up with the vehicle for software updates.