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Online used car dealer Vroom leverages virtual reality to bring the showroom to you

ICE Graveyard 2/08/2016 John Mannes

It would be a shame if we were able to build autonomous cars before we could simplify car buying.

Today, buying a used car means booking multiple weekends to test drive and examine every car at every dealership within a 50 mile radius. We fight through every other lemming on the nine to five grind who only had their weekend to hunt for their DeLorean every time we go out. Eventually we settle, we always do. Because no matter how cool our new ride is, we leave the dealership ready to drive the shiny vehicle through the sales office after painful negotiations and a trail of documents rivaling those of an IPO road show.

Online used car dealer Vroom wants to use virtual reality to put a smile on the face of car buyers while supporting their search for the perfect car.

The version launching today will cover 30 models of sports cars. By the end of the year, 300 models will be available for home inspection. While it’s true that over a million households now have access to VR headsets, Vroom will be opening popups at malls to let users who don’t have access to the expensive technology experience the virtual showroom.

From within the showroom, users can inspect vehicles and learn about models. Beyond cool features like hearing the exact corresponding engine sounds of each model, users can visualize important components including blind-spots review mirrors.

All vehicle models have been rendered from actual cars sold on Vroom. The company spends 48 hours going through cars to recondition them before sale

Eventually Vroom plans to use 3D modeling to allow customers to visualize their cars in in different colors with different packages. Individual automakers have used VR for some time, but Vroom believes their strongest asset is the ability to compare cars in one place. The company is developing a virtual garage to assist customers in the purchasing process.

We tried their new system on an HTC Vive and it’s nifty. The version rolling out today is a decent preview of what’s to come, but the coolest version by far is yet to be released. Future versions will not only include additional cars, but additional interactivity. The version I tested let me bend down and walk around vehicles. I could examine cars close up and far away, open doors, and inspect specific components inside and outside of the vehicles. The higher resolution models were complemented with appropriate lighting and paint shine. The best way to describe it would be like going from Gran Turismo 4 to Gran Turismo 5.

Of course virtual reality is more of a pleasant distraction than a true solution to the stresses of car buying. While customers will be able to check out within the virtual showroom, they will only be able to buy cars outright. To address the loan market, Vroom will need to digitize and standardize documents and offer a solution for docusignatues. The company is quick to point out that it’s their next priority to service this market of car-buyers. The base VR experience will also be coming to Google Cardboard in Q4.

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