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Augmented Reality Could Make Driverless Cars Easier to Accept & Use

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【Summary】Some car manufacturers are turning to augmented reality (AR) to help new drivers, who are skeptical about the mechanisms of driverless vehicles, transition from a traditional car with level one autonomous capabilities (strictly human driving) to a robust vehicle with level three or four autonomous features (like Audi’s prototype A7).

Original Michael Cheng    Oct 27, 2016 10:25 PM PT
Augmented Reality Could Make Driverless Cars Easier to Accept & Use
Michael Cheng

By Michael Cheng

Analysts predict that self-driving technology will disrupt the way we travel, communicate and engage our environment. The idea of stepping into a driverless car without a steering wheel, side mirrors and pedals (also known as level five autonomy) is a foreign concept that is extremely difficult to grasp for some people.

As a result, this gap in understanding and awareness may hinder adoption rates of self-driving cars. According to a Kelly Blue Book survey, roughly 63 percent of respondents believe that autonomous driving could make roads safer. But at the same time, over 62 percent of survey respondents (between 12 and 64) firmly believe that they will not see the technology come to fruition in their lifetime.

In order to address this issue, some car manufacturers are turning to augmented reality (AR) to help new drivers, who are skeptical about the mechanisms of driverless vehicles, transition from a traditional car with level one autonomous capabilities (strictly human driving) to a robust vehicle with level three or four autonomous features (like Audi's prototype A7).

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 Letting Go of the Steering Wheel

At the moment, AR is already being incorporated in some smart cars, as an upgrade to basic heads-up display (HUDs) features. During navigation, AR can be used to enhance navigation for drivers. Examples of AR navigational components include the following: interactive map displays, real-time directional assistance and virtual dashboard information.    

In the future, automakers intend to enhance emergency notifications using AR. For example, should a driverless car "see" a child crossing the street, the system will highlight the obstruction on the windshield. This will reassure passengers that the vehicle is aware of the obstacle, as it makes the necessary adjustments to avoid a fatal accident.

"When you present information visually the passengers will quickly gain trust in the performance and capabilities and reliability of autonomous cars," said Dominique Bonte, Managing Director and Vice President, B2B, at ABI Research.

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AR Hurdles and Market Projections

AR technology in self-driving cars should be closely regulated to prevent certain groups from exploiting its applications. Bonte highlighted that car manufacturers could partner with advertisers, which would allow them to run virtual ads inside the vehicle. Because operating a driverless car requires minimal effort and focus, advertisers could say that their ads are not jeopardizing the lives of passengers.

"Mixing critical safety alerts with commercial messages might not be a good thing, but it may be hard to resist that temptation. AR should be firmly limited to the safety realm and not spread into other uses cases - only presenting relevant, contextual safety information and nothing else," said Bonte.

A fully immersive driverless car experience, coupled with AR, will likely reach mainstream markets by 2030. This is also the timeline that analysts expect autonomous cars and EVs to reach 50 percent market penetration. Currently, engineers are fixated on various mediums for delivering AR features inside cars. This includes the use of smart glasses, laser technology and an interactive glass plate that is mounted securely on top of the dashboard.

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