Source: alist Frontline Marketing

We may not have flying cars yet, but the vehicle buying and manufacturing process is becoming the stuff of science fiction. Augmented and virtual reality are bringing the automotive showroom floor to consumers, visualizing concepts for engineers and training employees like never before.

Last year, BMW became the first car manufacturer to introduce a mixed reality system into vehicle development, devised entirely using components from the computer games industry (Unreal Engine 4). “Virtual reality applications are a good way of making our innovations something to experience and of illustrating our technology in clear terms. We use it both for our employees in training courses and for our customers at dealers,” Niklas Drechsler, who handles corporate and governmental affairs for BMW Group, told [a]listdaily.

Volvo’s partnership with HoloLens is a strategic move that introduces emerging technology into the manufacturing and purchasing journey. “Brands need to do more than just be at the forefront. We, as creators, need to make good experiences and initiatives—period,” Bruno Renhult, Volvo’s senior manager of artificial reality, told [a]listdaily.

If you’re not looking forward to spending days off work to visit multiple dealers or buy online and hope for the best, adding AR/VR to the mix can be a welcome change in the buying journey.

US car dealers spend $2.75 billion annually on interest to keep new vehicles on their lots, per Bloomberg, so allowing consumers to visualize different models and options is not only forward-thinking, but practical. Gartner believes that by 2020, 100 million consumers will shop in augmented reality due its ability to help visualize purchases.

BMW, for example, launched a visualization tool on Google Play that allows users to explore different options on its latest models. Hyundai created an augmented reality app that acts as a user’s manual—identifying components of the vehicle and instructing the user on how to perform maintenance. Mercedes-Benz even offers a rescue assist app that tells first responders about the vehicle—especially where it is safe or not safe to cut.

An October study says that the automotive AR market will grow steadily at a compound annual growth rate of almost 18 percent by 2020. This may be attributed to an increased use of heads-up display (HUD) in a variety of vehicles. An August report by ABI Research indicates that by 2025, more than 15 million AR HUDs will ship, with more than 11 million to be embedded solutions.

Car manufacturers are increasingly using AR and VR muscle for training and development, and the technology will not be driving into the sunset anytime soon.