The growing presence of electric vehicles is undeniable, but according to BloombergNEF, they still make up less than 1 percent of the one billion cars driven today. Despite the fact that some EVs have been on the market for years — including models from Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Nissan, and Tesla — most technicians have had limited experience with electric vehicles.
In anticipation of the all-electric Mustang Mach-E, Ford teamed up with Bosch to create a new virtual reality (VR) training tool for technicians to learn how to service and maintain the vehicle without access to a physical model.
“This new virtual reality training tool allows technicians to understand the components and steps required to service the electric SUV’s new high-voltage system, then confidently perform diagnostics and maintenance,” said Dave Johnson, director of Ford service engineering operations. He added that technicians would be immersed in a simulated and gamified world to learn about its various components.
So how does it work? According to Ford, a technician will learn how to diagnose and perform service, such as the removal and installation of the main battery and maintenance on the battery pack itself, wearing a virtual reality headset.
Bosch is also developing future extensions wherein the technicians utilize VR to enter the vehicle and navigate through modules to determine the issue in order to repair the SUV.
“By improving the diagnostic process, technicians are able to perform maintenance and make repairs faster and more easily,” said Geoff Mee, director of operations for Bosch.
Bosch developed a proof of concept for virtual reality automotive service training in 2019. After it was market-tested with instructors, technicians, and college students, Ford Motor Company became the first automaker to pilot the application with the Mustang Mach-E in its service technician powertrain repair course.
The new virtual reality system can also be used as an ongoing training tool, allowing technicians to tap into the system from any location and learn niche skills in the Ford technical training program.
Currently, the virtual reality training solution uses an Oculus Quest virtual reality headset from Facebook. However, Ford and Bosch are working with Oculus for Business to manage the fleet of headsets deployed to the Ford technician training program.
Ford could expand the technology to train on additional vehicles in the future with Pixo VR. The company’s proprietary virtual reality content distribution platform enables scaling and iterating virtual reality training software and applications.