Audi calls its initiative announced Tuesday ART, which stands for Audi Robotic Telepresence. Audi intends to make ART a component of positive customer experiences. The company recognizes that maintenance is part of the vehicle ownership experience, and service visits can be important predictors of customer satisfaction. Audi announced its launch of a communications robot as a way to help Audi dealership technicians quickly diagnose and troubleshoot repair issues to better ensure that the customer goes away not mad but glad. Audi released a video of these rolling robots, which will be moving about with video screens and cameras attached. Technicians will deploy their expertise in order to remotely supervise mechanics at coast to coast dealerships. The company said that Audi technical assistance consultants will be the primary operators of ART, as well as regionally based technical field managers. The idea is for them to inspect and help service vehicles as if they were standing alongside the local dealer technicians. Audi plans to implement the program at 100 U.S. dealers nationwide and is presently testing them in 18.
"ART was designed with both Audi technicians and consumers in mind," said Brian Stockton, general manager, technical support, Audi of America. "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 remotely controlled robot has cameras and a screen to communicate with mechanics in dealerships. Specifically, the design involves a remotely-controlled robot that shows the operator's face on a screen, while giving them the ability to move around the vehicle. That way, Audi technical service teams can interact speak with local-dealership service technicians. An attached borescope (an inspection instrument) and handheld camera allow the operator to look at engine components and other difficult-to-reach parts of the vehicle. Audi's technical support team worked with Nashua, New Hampshire-based VGo Communications on the ART system concept. VGo systems serve a broad range of applications in manufacturing, security, retail, healthcare and education.
According to the VGo company site, VGo is optimized at 4 feet tall to accommodate people who are sitting or standing. An accessory raises the height to 5 feet for applications where people are always standing or where a higher view is needed. Another VGo advantage is its ability to move around tight spaces. VGo is battery-powered and can run up to a full day between charges, according to the company site.
Looking ahead, the Audi technical support team and VGo Communications are researching new tools and accessories to further improve ART's capabilities.