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Go ahead, click the tires on that baby

virtual camaro

Virtual car lots headed for the 'Net

March 22, 1996
Web posted at: 10:40 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Brian Nelson

PORTLAND, Oregon (CNN) -- If there's one thing people hate more than a trip to the dentist, it may be facing a new car salesman. What if you could avoid car salesmen altogether, and shop from the safety and comfort of your home? If technology has its way, that day may not be far off.

High technology developer Hewlett Packard has formed alliances with a number of car manufacturers. Already, the company has developed new collision avoidance systems and night-vision enhancements that work by effectively putting an extra set of electronic eyes in the front and back of a car. (629K QuickTime movie)


Now, Hewlett Packard is ready to put another set of eyes where they are more helpful to would-be car buyers. Within 18 months, the folks at HP say, we are likely to see interactive 3-D car lots on the Internet.

"You can actually test everything from 'do they like the cloth on the seat' to 'do they like where the controls are oriented inside the vehicle,'" said Kevin Borchert of Hewlett Packard.

The prototype for this "on-line car inspection" (859K QuickTime movie)is still in the experimental stage. It's been designed to let you look under the hood at the car's engine, poke around inside, and before you go, pull up written material about the car's features, like the stereo system and climate controls. All of this mouse-driven navigation is in 3-D.


A few years from now, it may even be possible for consumers to go into an auto showroom, put on a virtual reality helmet, and take that little red sports number out for a test drive without ever actually leaving the showroom.

The virtual showroom would be created as a by-product of other technology in development: Several car companies are already experimenting with virtual reality in hopes of cutting car design time down from the current five years to just two.

Although the early version of the virtual showroom is fairly crude -- not much better than 3-D -- it is destined to become more realistic. Of course, virtual reality won't let you kick the tires, but if new technology can help you avoid high-octane sales people, maybe you won't need to kick the tires (or something else).


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