AR in cars enhancing safety and driving experience
Much like GPS navigation forever changed the driving experience, augmented reality is poised to do the same. Rather than having to glance down at your navigation system, you’ll soon have it projected onto your windshield or the road ahead of you via your headlights. Just as GPS is much safer and simpler than unfolding a huge paper map, having directions and other traffic information right in the driver’s field of vision keeps eyes on the road. AR in cars doesn’t stop at directions, though. It’s changing how people shop for cars and maintain them. These are some of the most impressive AR features on the road or in development.
Ford high-resolution headlights
Night driving can be especially dangerous, and a disproportionate percentage of accidents occur when it’s dark out. The new high-resolution headlights Ford is testing can project important information such as directions, speed limit, or weather conditions out onto the road in front of drivers, so they don’t have to look away to check a navigation system or other apps. In areas where road markings are difficult to see, the headlights can project lane lines and crosswalks to enhance safety and visibility. “What started as playing around with a projector light and a blank wall could take lighting technologies to a whole new level. There’s the potential now to do so much more than simply illuminate the road ahead, to help reduce the stress involved in driving at night. The driver could get essential information without ever needing to take their eyes off the road,” Ford of Europe software technician Lars Junker said.
This heads-up display includes turn-by-turn directions, current speed, speed limit, and arrival time to your destination. It’s all available in the windshield without taking up too much of the driver’s field of vision. Available in S-Class models, the AR-HUD also provides lane-keeping assistance and active distance assist, which monitors what’s going on ahead of you down the road. “Whatever our eyes do not recognize is detected by the car’s sensor system. While we are still thinking and maybe even hesitating, the system already hits the brakes,” Mercedes system developer Verena Hesse said.
Finnish software enterprise Basemark has developed an AR over video app for BMW iX. Combining sensor data and computer vision, the app shows navigation details over live video from the car’s front-view camera on the central information display. Thanks to a split screen, drivers can still see the more conventional navigation map they’re accustomed to. Once you get where you’re going, the AR can help you find a parking spot and let you know the rules and rates for parking in certain places. “The BMW Group’s augmented reality-powered applications set a new standard for driver experience, comfort, and safety. We are delighted that Basemark’s leading automotive software know-how resulted in AR implementations that fulfilled the concept of the BMW Group and asset requirements with great technical feasibility and high performance,” Basemark founder Tero Sarkkinen said.
Optional on Audi’s Q4 e-tron and Q4 Sportback e-tron EVs, this 70-inch AR-HUD displays navigation, assist, and traffic signage on the windshield. The information appears to be at various distances ahead of the driver, depending on the situation. “The driver can understand the displays very quickly without being confused or distracted by them, and they are extremely helpful in poor visibility conditions,” Audi says.
After Range Rover announced the Discovery Sport, it was several months before they had any of the actual models in showrooms. But to gin up interest and presales, they had AR headsets that gave viewers a virtual tour of the new model before it came out. That kind of sneak preview can get potential customers excited and keep them engaged between announcement and availability.
Hyundai, Audi, Kia, and Mercedes have all introduced AR owner’s manuals with which drivers can hold their phones up in front of various engine parts and other features to get a display explaining their functions. Soon, AR might not be just for the drivers. It could make the passenger’s experience more exciting as well. “For example, you might drive through the Alps and see some beautiful churches or lakes, and you can engage with a touchscreen on the windows and get a different level of interaction,” Harman’s Andrey Golubinskiy told TechCrunch. “The information is actually projected, and with a touchscreen, you can touch, for example, the mountain and get information about the height or other information.”