Today in $#!t No One Needs: VR Test Drives

Volvo and Microsoft have teamed up to create a vision of the future—and the future is stupid. Using the tech giant’s HoloLens technology, customers at Volvo dealerships will soon be able to test drive the Swedish automocar of their choice through the magic of virtual reality. There will be actual Volvos just sitting right there, since the VR setups will be in dealers’ showrooms, so it remains to be seen what, exactly, is the use of a virtual test drive.

Volvo Dealers Must Be Terrible at Their Jobs

If a person walks into your car dealership, there’s a good chance he or she is already ready to test drive one of your vehicles—most people who are just window shopping for a new ride don’t go into the showroom. So, if you’re a Volvo salesman, you’ve already got a captive—and receptive—audience. If you can’t sell them on a test drive in a real life car, what the hell good is a virtual reality version going to do?

“With the power of holograms, we have the ability to open the car completely, take a closer look at the engine, inspect the chassis, or watch the drivetrain and transmission in action,” said Scott Erickson, director of Microsoft’s HoloLens division.

Of course! Most potential car buyers want to see a car’s transmission at work, right? Because that has a huge effect on their buying decisions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been really interested in buying a car, only to pass on the make and model at hand because I couldn’t get a look at the tranny through digital technology. Chassis inspection is a close second in the “key selling points” book.

The HoloLens hyperspace simulator in action.

The HoloLens hyperspace simulator in action.

It appears as though the Volvo-HoloLens mashup is intended to give car buyers what they didn’t know they needed because they do not need it. Buyers may want to know about the engine or suspension or transmission system, but I can’t think of a single one that would want to rigorously inspect any of those components on a brand new vehicle. “This Volvo looks great, Gary, but I’m on the fence about buying it. Can I get an up-close look at the inner workings of the engine? And can I wear a stupid virtual reality headset while I do so?”

The All-New 2016 Volvo Hologram

Microsoft’s Windows 10-powered holographic platform was unveiled in January of this year, and the first “consumer” version is expected in Q1 of 2016. The technology has already been used by NASA JPL, the Cleveland Clinic, and others who actually have a reasonable use for such high tech gadgetry.

There is one genuinely useful application of HoloLens for car buyers: customization. “With HoloLens, we have the freedom to create a bespoke experience which customers can steer themselves,” said Volvo senior VP of marketing sales and service Björn Annwall. “Imagine using mixed reality to choose the type of car you want—to explore the colors, rims, or get a better understanding of the features, service, and options available.”

That’s all well and good, but haven’t automakers had websites that let you do that very thing for about a decade now? And if one is in the auto showroom—the belly of the beast—shouldn’t the dealer have all that information and more readily available to share with you, the potential customer? Are people really so damned addicted to technology that they need something so stupid and overelaborate in order to make their car buying decisions? And if so, what’s next—virtual test drives for waffle irons? Can’t we trust our own eyes, hands, and minds anymore?

And so, we’re presented with the virtual reality test drive and a future where we’re all too dumb to make our own choices.

Photo credit: PhotoDu.de / CreativeDomainPhotography.com / Foter.com / CC BY

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