The technology needed to electrify and automate cars is maturing in tandem with the technology that powers augmented reality. Automakers interested in grabbing the attention of their customers and even attracting alternative forms of revenue are considering potential AR use cases, now and in the future. The integrations that are hitting the market today are less gimmicky than you’d expect given the metaverse-fueled hype surrounding AR, and they’re really poised to be useful to drivers.
Augmented reality safety features that can help drivers navigate and detect potential threats on the road are the first apps the auto industry is seeing that deliver value right now, providing a ramp for a future-proof business that anticipates a driverless future.
A handful of software companies are rushing to offer products to the growth industry and integrate their technology with OEMs.
On Wednesday, Basemark, a Finnish company specializing in automotive software, announced that its over-video AR app would now be available on some of the latest BMW iX models. The next day, Harman, a Samsung subsidiary specializing in connected car technology and other IoT solutions, said it would acquire Apostera, a company whose AR software would help Harman expand its automotive offerings to provide an AR platform like a. products.
“For us, this was a really important acquisition, just because we feel there is tremendous change in the industry, and it’s not just electrification,” Armin Prommersberger, senior vice president of product management in Harman’s Automotive department, told Ploonge. “Electrification is just the starting point. What is really happening from our perspective is consumerization. The car is becoming much more than a transport device from A to B.”
Basemark’s integration with BMW and Harman’s acquisition of Apostera not only signal some of the industry players that are making their mark, but also the use cases we can expect from augmented reality in vehicles.
Applying AR to video feeds for safer browsing
Drivers of certain BMW i4 vehicles will experience augmented reality directly through their infotainment screen while using BMW’s navigation system, according to Tero Sarkkinen, CEO and founder of Basemark. The vehicle’s front camera will automatically send live images of the street in front of the car to the touchscreen, where interactive arrows appear over the real-world environment to show the driver when and where to turn or whether to change lanes. . The screen will be split to also show the map next to the video.
Of course, there are other applications for this type of technology, such as warning displays (HUDs) that appear over windshields so drivers don’t have to take their eyes off the road, says Sarkkinen.
Apostera already has a HUD product in production with Audi’s Q4 e-tron, which is reactive enough to accurately adhere to a driver’s real environment. The AR windshield on Audis displays important information such as driving speed, traffic signs, the status of the driver assistance system and navigation symbols as static displays. Drivers will also be able to notice floating symbols about 30 feet away, and they will alert drivers to things like lane departure warnings or highlight an active car driving ahead when in adaptive cruise control mode.
Basemark is working to use sensors to give drivers more information about their surroundings. At CES, the company showcased its object detection AR prototype, which receives raw camera and radar data and performs sensor fusion to help drivers when there is low visibility to increase safety.
Basemark is currently conducting pilots with other OEMs, so we may see more of them in the future.
Increasing advanced driver assistance systems
Many of the impressive ADAS features in new vehicles are taking on an increasing number of driving tasks, but that doesn’t always put drivers at ease, says Andrey Golubinskiy, former CEO of Apostera and now senior director of Harman’s ADAS strategic business unit.
“If you’re activating some functionality, you, as a driver, don’t understand why the car behaves a certain way,” Golubinskiy told Ploonge. “So we solved that by constantly visualizing what the car sees and providing object recognition for the driver. We also visualize what the car thinks, so you know what the car will do next.”
Harman’s software offering, with Apostera IP built in, will compute this information and visualize it for the driver and passenger to let them know why the car might suddenly change lanes or try to avoid an obstacle. This helps to increase confidence and therefore use of the ADAS systems already available in vehicles, says Golubinskiy.
But it doesn’t stop at visual cues. Harman’s new ADAS unit is also working to add audio prompts to accompany visual recognition of objects.
“This is very useful because everything that passes through your ears ends up in your brain much faster and is processed much faster than any visuals,” Prommersberger said. “So this kind of immersive combination of augmented reality, mixed reality, visuals and audio is the next evolutionary step. And now, with the acquisition of Apostera, we have all the internals.”
While Harman says its AR platform is already on the market with some customers, it is able to continually integrate new features with wireless updates. The company says its product is hardware, operating system and sensor independent, so it’s designed to reuse data coming from any vehicle network.
The passenger AR experience
Going forward, in a future where autonomous driving is the norm, AR will allow passengers to engage with the environment around the vehicle, says Golubinskiy.
“For example, you can 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,” Golubinskiy said. “The information is really projected and with a touch screen you can touch, for example, the mountain and get information about the height or other information.”
With in-car technology comes subscription offers
Cars with augmented reality options are still few and far between, but the trend we’re seeing with other automotive technologies right now is to monetize smart vehicle offerings through subscriptions. At CES, Google and Amazon unveiled new in-car features that enhance a car’s infotainment systems, even allowing passengers to stream YouTube or Amazon Prime videos, things that will likely be available through a monthly purchase.
Last year, General Motors said it expected its in-car subscription services for things like OnStar, emergency services, ADAS systems and navigation to generate nearly $2 billion in revenue, with the potential to bring in up to $25 billion for the company. company until the end. of the decade.
In a world where pandemic-related supply chain issues are causing delays in new vehicle production and automakers are spending more on electrification, it’s easy to see how AR apps can be used to give automakers a new path to increase profits.