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Augmented reality features are already used by several automobile manufacturers and options for aftermarket augmented reality products are growing every day. Because of the regulatory issues of fully autonomous driving and other barriers that still need to be worked through before autonomous driving technology is widely accepted, it’s a good bet that augmented reality will be the next automotive technology to be seen on the roadways.

Benefits of augmented reality for automobiles

By displaying crucial information for the driver within their line of sight, augmented reality can improve safety. Instead of a driver needing to look down at the dash or to their phone to get driving data or information, the promise of augmented reality would have the info available on a heads-up display, the windshield or projected on the road ahead in the driver’s line of sight. In addition to assisting with navigation and data from gauges, augmented reality can make the driver aware of hazards on the road or other emergency notifications.

Augmented reality features used by auto manufacturers today

There are several cars on the road today manufactured by BMW, Chevrolet, Jaguar, Lexus, Mazda, Mercedes-Bez, MINI, Toyota and Volvo that have augmented reality features. Using heads up displays (HUD) these vehicles project information speed, gas levels, lane guidance, directions, and more. Some companies are using augmented reality and their mobile apps to create AR owner’s manuals. Drivers can download applications to their smartphones and then use computer vision to identify specific features of the cabin. Then, the relevant information about the cabin’s features is presented to the driver. Currently, there is also a lot of aftermarket HUDs available for drivers to modernize their vehicles, so it’s not necessary to purchase a new model to enjoy AR functionality.

Augmented reality in the future

The rearview mirror of the future, using AR technology, will detect a blind-spot threat and actively show a video feed of it in the rearview mirror. Another rearview mirror advancement of the future will be the “hybrid view” mirror that combines the rear and side view camera images to create a panoramic view of what’s behind the driver. Rearview mirrors will probably still maintain the reflective glass so that the driver is still able to see even when the system technology fails.

Similar to Apple’s FaceID, rearview mirrors of the future will have iris scanning to identify a driver. Once a driver is identified, the car will be able to adjust seating, temperature, and music to the driver’s preferences.HUDs represent the first-generation AR technology for automobiles, but soon the essential information is expected to be displayed on the windshield or projected on the roadway.
Nevertheless, it is expected that the vehicle’s windshield will be the heads up display of the future.

EyeDrive is one solution, that turns any car windshield into a holographic surface. Drivers will be able to access their favorite applications, use voice commands, and gestures to control the system and make phone calls. Concerns about minimizing distractions as well as keeping the driver tuned into reality and not falling into “game mode” also need to be addressed as AR for windshields is rolled out. But this application could be very practical for learning how to drive on the road and on the racetrack.

Some of the world’s largest tech companies have not been overtly involved in AR for vehicles, although it seems plausible that Apple, Google’s parent company Alphabet and Tesla and the complementary tech they have already launched would allow them to quite easily create AR tech initiatives for the automotive industry. These would be companies to watch as AR for automobiles evolves.

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