The German car manufacturer is hoping to improve its after-sales service with remotely-controlled bots.
It’s no secret that automotive manufacturing plants are highly automated, with robotic machines operating with precision and speed in the car assembly line. Naturally these car factories also have a human workforce — the staff who perform tasks that can’t be left to machines, as well as supervisors who oversee the process. Automobile dealerships, on the other hand, rely heavily on manpower — mechanics, engineers, administrative staff, among others – but very soon one car brand’s dealerships may include robot supervisors among their “staff.”
German car manufacturer Audi is building a fleet of robots that will help their staff at headquarters supervise the mechanics at their dealerships.
The robotic fleet consist of Audi Robotic Telepresence (ART) units, developed by New Hampshire-based robotics company Vgo. The Audi Robotic Telepresence system is an advanced remotely-controlled robot that displays the face of the operator on its screen and moves around the dealership area. The ART system allows the technical service team at Audi to interact and actually converse with the service technicians at the dealership even if they’re in a different location. The ART unit includes an attached borescope and a handheld camera that lets the operator inspect various engine components of the car and other parts that are hard to reach.
In a press release, Brian Stockton, General Manager of Technical Support at Audi of America, said,
ART was designed with both Audi technicians and consumers in mind. The device will give local service technicians valuable one-on-one interaction with their counterparts at Audi of America, which will not only benefit the speed and depth of service at the dealer level, but create an improved ownership experience for the customer in general.
The primary operators of the ART systems will be Audi technical assistant consultants and regionally-based technical field managers. They will be able to remotely access the Audi Robotic Telepresence systems through a computer or tablet and a WiFi connection at the dealership.
Through the ART units, Audi hopes to streamline their vehicle service visits and improve the speed and accuracy of their service, as well as the reporting of technical concerns to their manufacturing plants. The company also hopes that the robots will help their technicians diagnose and troubleshoot repair issues that they encounter in the dealerships.
Audi plans to deploy the Audi Robotic Telepresence robots to a hundred dealerships. At the moment the company is testing the robots at 18.
Some clips showing how the ART system works can be found on Audi USA’s site.