Image courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini S.P.A

Audi Business Innovation drives industrial-scale visualization at VW Group

Stefan Wenz
Creating a photorealistic configurator for a new car is one thing, but what happens when you’re a huge company with hundreds of car lines across several brands?

For global car giants, the challenge is delivering visualization on a gigantic scale. The Volkswagen Group is a family made up of many well-known marques, including Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti, Porsche, SEAT/Cupra, Škoda, and Volkswagen. 

At Audi alone, there are over 17 different car lines. Factor in the other brands, and you soon have a huge number of models. That requires an industrialized visualization approach. The solution to this challenge came with an innovation that started out at Audi—the Automotive Visualization Platform (AVP). 

Industrial-scale real-time visualization

Before the AVP, Audi and other brands in the Volkswagen Group had a high dependency on services and technology supplied by external providers. With all car models updated twice a year, a more cost-effective way was needed to convert the new data and create new assets for all the cars. 

The Volkswagen Group decided on a new strategy: taking the core components in-house, and building an internal team of visualization experts proficient in Unreal Engine. At Audi Business Innovation, where the AVP was originally developed, the team built its own fully digitized data-conversion pipeline to take its heavy manufacturing CAD data of a fully configurable vehicle and prepare it for use in marketing materials.
Image courtesy of Audi Business Innovation GmbH
This enabled the team to deliver real-time visualization experiences for dealerships via on-premise installations, and also cloud applications to deliver content for these configurators.

The AVP represents this ecosystem, together with its different components, processes, and partners: a complete, automated digital pipeline—one in which it’s possible to update vehicles and content at the push of a button. The technology has become the company’s central platform for the system-driven, industrial-scale production and provisioning of product visualizations for all digital sales channels. Its success at Audi has seen the platform begin to be rolled out across the other brands that make up the Volkswagen Group, too.

A globalized visualization approach 

The AVP produces high-quality renderings of cars in real time for different touch points along the customer journey. “The goal was to think of automotive visualization as a whole, to establish links between multiple touchpoints and to endow the best possible customer benefits,” says Thomas Zuchtriegel, Head of AVP at Audi Business Innovation. “In order to achieve this, we created a highly integrated visualization ecosystem. The AVP represents this ecosystem, together with its different components and processes.”

Switching to an in-house approach with their own internal team of game engine developers was a game changer, enabling them to more easily visualize data within their own walls, rather than constantly sending confidential product data to external companies and providers. The new approach was both safer and faster.
Image courtesy of Audi Business Innovation GmbH
This method also allowed for far greater customization of tools and pipelines, since there was no appropriate solution on the market for a car manufacturer with huge product complexity and twice-yearly product lifecycle updates.

The AVP has enabled it to scale up its visualization to an unprecedented level. It currently supplies around 1,000 dealers with visualization in 27 markets worldwide. Because the system is incredibly efficient, it can generate large numbers of assets. “For Lamborghini, for example, we will deliver about 100 million images each year,” says Benjamin Berger, Head of Content (Digital Content) at Audi Business Innovation. “But requests are different from project to project—it is not only the amount of images that counts, but also quality, content, and size.”
Image courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini S.P.A

Improved ROI and market advantage

To deliver visualization on an industrial scale, you need a reliable, powerful foundation. Unreal Engine provides that foundation for the AVP. “It offers best-in-class visualization. It’s highly performant, offers great customization possibilities, and is open to our ideas,” says Zuchtriegel. “Its enterprise approach, with close contacts to Epic Games industry specialists, also makes Unreal Engine attractive to us.”
Image courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini S.P.A
Zuchtriegel goes on to mention free access to the engine’s source code, Blueprints, and Pixel Streaming as some of the core features used by Audi to develop the AVP. By mid 2021, Audi plans to establish Unreal Engine’s ray tracing capabilities as standard functionality in its AVP pipeline.

The AVP has most recently been leveraged by the Volkswagen Group for the release of the Audi e-tron GT in February and the Audi Q4 e-tron models in April. Many images and videos of the car have been produced using the platform, including the realistic visualization of the Audi RS e-tron GT driving through the desert outside of Dubai below. Projects for Lamborghini, Audi, and more are scheduled for release later this year. 

The Volkswagen Group has seen significant ROI benefits from developing its new visualization platform. “From a business value point of view, the AVP ensures cost savings of about 30%, and the time to market has been reduced from weeks to hours,” says Lorenz Schweiger, Head of Business Development and Strategy for the AVP. 

What’s more, the adoption of this real-time solution has put them in a strategically advantageous position in the market. “We can proudly say we are running the fastest visualization pipeline in the automotive industry, from CAD to end user,” says Zuchtriegel. “And we have an all-star team of experts to react to fast-changing customer expectations.”

There are many auto companies using Unreal Engine to create stunning visualizations and configurators, but the Volkswagen Group is the one of the first to leverage the engine to build a global system for the transfer and optimization of complex car data. The AVP stands as a great example of an innovative company capitalizing on Unreal Engine’s openness and flexibility to create a highly customized solution to meet a specific automotive challenge.
Image courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini S.P.A

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