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Innovative Automaker Adopts VR for Collaborative Design Efforts 


Innovative Automaker Adopts VR for Collaborative Design Efforts 

The past few years have been challenging for automakers and the fleets that rely on them. Supply chain troubles and rapidly shifting consumer demands have led to price volatility and extensive backlogs. However, amid all these obstacles, GM was able to put out the BrightDrop Zevo 600 in record time.

Going from idea to full-scale production in under two years would be impressive in any context. Doing so at the peak of pandemic-era disruption is staggering. The only way it was possible was through extensive digitization and immersive collaboration — a practice that may rewrite the future of the transportation industry.

The Challenge of Modern Industry

To fully grasp the benefits of immersive collaboration, businesses must first recognize where conventional approaches fall short. It starts with the industry’s labor challenges. Manufacturing could have 2.1 million unfilled positions by 2030, and logistics and supply chain operations face similar shortages. As current workers retire and fewer enter the sector to take their place, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to remain productive — at least by traditional means.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many office jobs transitioned to remote work, but industrial workplaces couldn’t, leading to long periods of lost productivity. Now, home-based jobs are becoming the norm in some sectors, attracting more young workers and worsening the labor crisis in industries where that’s not an option.

As these labor challenges persist, output demands are rising. Manufacturers must produce higher-quality products in less time at lower costs to remain competitive in an increasingly agile market. Fleets must support that growth and expand to deliver more in shorter time frames. Achieving that is challenging enough on its own, much less amid dwindling in-person workforces.

The pandemic also revealed how fragile conventional supply chains are. Companies must adapt to new challenges at a moment’s notice, but standard manufacturing and supply chain practices don’t support that kind of agility.

The Record-Breaking BrightDrop Zevo 600

Despite all these challenges, GM managed to put out its fastest vehicle to market in company history. Engineers began designing the BrightDrop Zevo 600 in early 2020, and despite shutdowns they released it 20 months later. The secret to this project’s success was a quick pivot to immersive virtual collaboration technologies.

Virtual reality (VR) was at the center of this technological shift. Engineers used VR to work together in immersive digital environments, replicating in-person cooperation despite being miles apart.

The VR system BrightDrop used is more advanced than a simple headset. It also features tracking sensors called lighthouses and pucks that give users a more grounded sense of position and direction in the virtual world. These sensors also prevent collisions with physical objects. VR-capable design software and gaming computers to run it completed the system.

Through these technologies, BrightDrop employees were able to collaborate from their homes. VR provided the convenience of videoconferencing with the ability to interact with the same digital elements as physical objects in conventional workflows. 

What the Zevo 600 Means for Transportation

The Zevo 600’s development showcases immersive collaboration’s potential for industrial sectors. While VR meetups were a health necessity at COVID’s peak, they’re valuable time-savers under normal circumstances. Employees can work together without wasting time traveling to the same physical location.

Because VR is immersive, it’s easier to remain productive and ensure virtual models more closely reflect their real-world counterparts — whether they represent specific products or their larger supply chains. This advantage further shortens turnaround times by minimizing physical iterations and avoiding time waste other digital solutions may foster.

As these solutions speed up auto manufacturing, they open new possibilities for the fleets relying on these providers. New vehicles offering needed improvements in efficiency, reliability or sustainability will come out faster, enabling rapid fleet expansion. Shorter lead times can also reduce prices, further supporting logistics growth.

VR and similar technologies could also address logistics companies’ labor problems. Companies can hire employees from other cities, states and countries when people no longer have to be in the same place to work together. The labor pool broadens dramatically as a result.

VR-powered remote work doesn’t necessarily apply to drivers but can ease the burden on logistics businesses’ office staff. It also opens the door for remote onboarding and early training for drivers or mechanics, even if they must move to work in person eventually.

Similarly, some companies have started using VR to train mechanics and other personnel. Adopting this approach could let supply chain organizations bring new hires up to speed faster. Immersive digital environments are better teachers than noninteractive presentations but are safer than real-world workplaces and support remote hiring.

This digital collaboration also has benefits outside of speed and labor issues. Because it lets automakers create more in-depth designs in less time, they don’t have to sacrifice efficiency for high-quality products. That’s good news for transport companies seeking to grow their fleets while capitalizing on newer technologies for driver comfort or safety.

Despite its rapid development, the Zevo 600 brought several delivery-focused innovations to its design — including larger cupholders and a cabin that’s easier to enter and exit. Other automakers can use the same approach to equip their vehicles with in-demand features and functionality without long lead times. As a result, they can meet changing market needs faster, helping transportation and logistics become more agile.

Bringing Immersive Collaboration to New Applications

The BrightDrop Zevo 600 isn’t the only product to benefit from this technology, and it certainly won’t be the last. Maserati used a similar approach to design a car in eight weeks, aiming to have a working prototype in under two years. Computer-aided design software and 3D printing accelerated the process. As this design philosophy becomes standard, fleets can expect new vehicles to roll out faster, enabling quicker expansion or EV adoption.

Immersive, tech-centric collaboration has applications outside of automotive design. VR and its adjacent technologies enable real-time remote collaboration in workflows where simple video meetings aren’t sufficient. Logistics companies can use these solutions to connect maintenance professionals in different areas, learn to work with new equipment faster or collaborate on virtual models of supply chains for more effective planning.


This technology also has promise for fleets’ workforce and HR operations. Managers can train workers in VR so they learn important safety steps before handling potentially hazardous equipment in the real world. These immersive environments can shorten onboarding times to support faster expansion and higher productivity.

VR collaboration lets maintenance personnel train on virtual representations of different vehicles without needing the real thing. That way, fleets can prepare to work with newer equipment in less time. This advantage will become more important as autonomous driving and EVs transform logistics operations.

Supply chain management can benefit from immersive collaboration, too. VR meetings make communicating with global partners easier, informing faster, more effective operational decisions. Faster, more in-depth communication will become increasingly important as workforce struggles continue and demands for quick shipping rise.

Immersive Collaboration Is the Future of Transportation

BrightDrops’ Zevo 600 proves that digitization’s benefits for the auto industry are more than just theoretical. It enables the changes the sector needs to compete in a fast-paced, tech-centric world. While this shift is starting in manufacturing, it has ripple effects across the transportation and logistics industry.

New technologies will become essential in remaining productive as supply chain and logistics companies face mounting challenges. Immersive collaboration is the first and one of the most important steps in that goal. Now that companies are starting to see massive real-world benefits from this innovation, it won’t be long before it transforms the industry.


The Most Car-Dependent States

Car travel is a uniquely American obsession. Part of this fact is practical reality: in comparison to most other developed nations, the U.S. has a land area that is larger, cities that are less densely populated, and mass transit infrastructure that is less robust. As a result, the ability to travel by car is almost essential for getting around, and by most metrics of car usage, the U.S. outpaces its international peers.

But cars and road travel also occupy a special place in the public imagination, often associated with American ideals of freedom and exploration. The idea of being able to go anywhere at any time in America’s vast landscape is a powerful one. And this as much as cars’ utility in the U.S. has helped fuel high levels of car travel over the last century.

Americans’ car fixation can be seen in data from the Federal Highway Administration. Since 1960, the rate of growth for vehicle registrations has vastly outstripped the rate of growth of the population. Initially, some of that trend could be attributed to rising economic prosperity and the growth of car-centric suburban communities in the postwar era. But now, the total number of registered vehicles in the U.S. exceeds the number of licensed drivers—by more than 50 million. This indicates a high number of multi-car households and even multi-car drivers.

With the increase in vehicles on the road comes more miles traveled. For the most part, the total number of miles traveled has also been on an upward trajectory over the last half-century, reaching a peak in 2019 at 271 billion vehicle miles traveled. COVID-19 has represented a major aberration, however: 2020 saw a 13% decline in miles traveled, the largest year-over-year decline on record. The pandemic led to job losses and a mass transition to remote work, which reduced commutes, while shutdowns and the need to social distance put a dent in tourism and travel for leisure purposes. It remains to be seen whether shifts in work and commuting patterns will have lasting effects on miles traveled or if 2020 proves to be an outlier.

It is clear that for some states, car travel is not going anywhere anytime soon, regardless of the pandemic’s long-term effects. Many of the states where people drive the most miles are rural and not densely populated, so their use of cars is a necessity. The national leader is Wyoming—the nation’s second least densely-populated state—with more than 24,000 miles traveled per year per licensed driver. At the other end of the spectrum, Rhode Island is the second most densely-populated state and the state with the smallest land area, which both contribute to its low levels of driving.

Vehicle-miles traveled is one strong indication of how much states depend on cars, but it is not the only one. Other indicators can reflect how common vehicle ownership and travel are in a state’s households. To find the locations most dependent on cars, researchers at Copilot used data from the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau to develop a composite measure based on the annual vehicle-miles traveled per licensed driver (40%), the average number of vehicles per household (30%), the number of licensed drivers per 1,000 residents in the driving age population (15%), and the proportion of working adults with at least one vehicle available (15%).

Here are the most car-dependent states.

State Rank  Composite score Annual vehicle-miles traveled per licensed driver Average number of vehicles per household Licensed drivers per 1k driving-age population Proportion of working adults with at least one vehicle available


Alabama    1     87.8     17,817 1.09 1,022 97.8%
Montana    2     81.4     15,880 1.00 938 98.1%
Wyoming    3     78.7     24,069 0.83 923 98.5%
South Dakota    4     74.0     15,541 0.95 925 97.9%
Georgia    5     66.2     18,334 0.89 864 97.0%
Utah    6     65.7     15,516 0.89 892 98.1%
Nebraska    7     65.0     14,846 0.84 947 98.2%
Kentucky    8     64.0     16,305 0.94 847 97.3%
New Mexico    9     63.3     19,157 0.80 865 97.9%
Missouri    10     63.1     18,521 0.83 868 97.3%
Idaho    11     61.9     14,417 0.91 901 98.3%
Iowa    12     61.9     14,745 0.94 906 97.5%
Indiana    13     61.8     18,024 0.84 859 97.1%
Delaware    14     61.7     12,609 1.12 1,024 97.2%
South Carolina    15     61.6     14,941 0.87 932 97.5%
United States    –     N/A     14,263 0.87 868 95.7%


For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on CoPilot’s website:

Mexico Trumps Canada For Major Ford Engine Deal

Detroit, MI – Auto giant Ford has said it will have its 1.5-liter and 1.6-liter Ford Fiesta engines produced in Mexico, rather than at its plants in Windsor and Essex, Ontario, Canada.

Canada lost the bid for the work after both federal and provincial governments were unable to reach an agreement with Ford on incentives for the work.

The City of Windsor, alone, reportedly offered Ford a 10-year, $8.5-million tax freeze to bring the work to its plant.

The Essex and Windsor engine plants manufacture V-8 and V-10 engines for the iconic Ford Mustang, as well as the company’s line of trucks, vans, and SUVs.

According to the Canadian media, had Ford decided to have the work done in Ontario, the investment could have topped $1.8 billion and created 1,000 jobs.

Ford’s announcement, which was made without comment, was offset somewhat with news earlier this month that the company would add 1,000 jobs at its assembly plant in Oakville, Ontario, which will produce the 2015 Ford Edge crossover utility vehicle.

Last year, the company announced a $621 million investment in the Oakville plant.