General Motors unveiled the 2022 GMC Hummer EV Sport Utility Truck (SUT) online and during national television broadcasts on October 20, 2020.
General Motors developed the GMC Hummer EV 2022 quickly with the help of virtual reality, an increasing trend for the automotive industry before and during the coronavirus pandemic.
GM CEO Mary Barra called the Hummer EV process on Twitter “a new benchmark for GM’s ability to get EV products to market quickly”. What it took GM and other automakers five to seven years to develop and launch a new vehicle in the past is expected to be shortened to under three years the Hummer EV.
This is important because it allows the automaker to bring more new or redesigned vehicles to market in a timely manner. New products usually mean higher sales and better profits.
The rapid development is a combination of prioritizing the vehicle; a new modular electric vehicle architecture; and a host of new processes and tools, including virtual reality, that enable employees to work faster and remotely. Such virtual processes for GM and other automakers are expected to continue in the future.
“Our leadership has challenged us to get the Hummer EV to market quickly, using our analytical tools, computer-aided engineering and less physical vehicle testing where we are,” said Al Oppenheiser, chief engineer of the Hummer EV. “This is becoming the norm for every program at GM.”
GM developed a prototype for the Hummer EV Sport Utility Truck (SUT) in about 18 months. While testing and validation continues, GM is expected to begin production the Hummer EV next fall – About two and a half years after GM started working on the vehicle on April 1, 2019.
GM’s staff on the Hummer and other vehicles were able to work from home with a range of resources that, in some cases, enabled them to make changes and decisions faster than usual.
This included the virtual development and construction of vehicles as well as the review of processes with executives. For the Hummer EV, virtual reality, mainly before the pandemic, was the primary method for “theming” and selecting the vehicle interior.
The initial selection of the Hummer EV’s interior did not use full-scale models or clay busts – traditional design methods for automakers, according to GM. Such traditional physical elements were eventually used in combination with the virtual technologies.
2022 GMC Hummer EV Sport Utility Truck
Michael McBride, global director of GM’s design business, which also includes immersive technologies, said the company was quick to increase investment and availability in such technologies as the pandemic began.
“As you go along, you will hear us talk more and more about its use in different products,” he told CNBC. “I think it stayed the way we will work before, but I think this has accelerated adoption, and maybe adoption.”
GM even duplicated traditional workplaces for employees in their homes. It’s a process that the company is expected to deploy in future vehicles with or without a global pandemic.
GM declined to say how much it invested in the technology. However, the company is in the midst of a multi-billion dollar effort that began in 2012 to source and transform the company’s IT operations. It formed the backbone of GM’s operations to work effectively remotely.
“We were able to reach our milestones by using the technology even when we weren’t able to be physically present in the office or studio,” said Bryan Styles, who heads GM’s immersive technology unit. “It’s pretty big evidence of the team’s ability to use each tool.”
Engineers and designers have also used the systems for vehicle bypassing with executives regarding updates and permits. Some users are avatars in the virtual world while others are monitoring on computers.
“It really takes it to the next level when you can’t be physically there,” Styles said. “It was a great opportunity to really take advantage of the technology and see not just what is possible today, but ultimately where we could go with it.”
GM wasn’t the only one mobilizing its design, research and development teams during the pandemic. Most, if not all, automakers have found new ways to work remotely. For the Detroit automaker, it was a matter of maintaining as many workflows as possible.
For the Detroit automakers, the goal was to effectively maintain as much workflow as possible. Companies are currently looking into which processes will continue to be used to improve collaboration and accelerate product development.
At the Ford engine, An in-house digital design team created digital environments and set up the computerized design-generated models in the environment for virtual reviews to be performed by design management.
Ford’s design leadership team used a virtual design studio in place of the usual physical clay model checks with a digital tour of a CAD-generated model of vehicles under development.
The same virtual reality technology was used in reviews of previous Ford design programs, but amplified during the pandemic. Especially as part of the Bronco program for executive reviews and to simulate the Bronco open-air rooftop experience.
“Thanks to virtual reality technology, our global design team was able to evaluate, review and discuss design programs in the same virtual design studio,” said Moray Callum, Ford vice president of design, in a statement emailed. “In the long term after the pandemic, we will see VR in more designer households as things become more digital and less physical. We are already seeing this digital perspective from design students.”
Rob Wichman, Fiat Chrysler’s head of product development for North America, said the company used remote access programs to meet with various teams as well as suppliers during the global health crisis.
Ford implemented the full capabilities of virtual reality to allow our designers to work remotely and keep vehicle programs moving during the approval process.
“We have virtual design reviews,” he told CNBC. “It’s live and essentially seamless.”
The company also installed workstations and software test towers for infotainment and other devices in employees’ homes. They were also able to remotely collect and analyze on-road tests of vehicles to aid vehicle engineers.
Ralph Gilles, Fiat Chrysler’s global design director, said the ability to work remotely increases flexibility at work and even creativity.
“To be honest, I’ve never seen a better job,” he said. “Isolation has actually led to unexpected and positive results in terms of quality of work and work-life balance. There are many behaviors that we will in some way continue to do in the future thanks to this kind of reset.”