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How augmented reality will redefine driving, cars

By Joe Hewitson / May 30, 2013

Augmented reality (AR), as Hollywood blockbusters have shown us, is simply a way to see enhanced information about the world around us. Using a optical device that captures your surroundings — like the camera in your cellphone — AR transforms your field of vision into an interactive heads-up display.

This technology has the mobile and tech worlds abuzz, significantly bolstered by wearable devices like Google Glass. But AR isn’t just going to change our glasses, it’s also going to have a big impact on the way we drive.

A natural fit for vehicles

With AR, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can now deliver important information to drivers in a way that’s accessible and consumable, but also less intrusive or distracting than previous methods. The tech offers drivers the ability to keep their eyes on the road while interacting with maps, music, phones and dashboard displays.

Augmented reality could also give drivers and passengers timely updates on critical travel information like road conditions, weather alerts and detour directions, all while keeping the driver’s eyes on the windshield. According to a recent Telegraph article, this technology could pave the way for safer roads, easier navigations and all-around smarter drivers.

But the people behind the wheel aren’t the only ones to benefit from AR. Passengers might soon be able to interact with the world in a completely new way as it zips past their car window. Imagine driving through the majestic Rocky Mountains while snapping a photo of the picturesque peaks with a couple taps and pinches on your window. Better yet, how about driving down the historic Route 66 and enjoying streams of information pouring over your window as you pass prominent landmarks. While this might sound like a pipe dream, many OEMs like Toyota and Mercedes are already developing this promising technology.

Providing an informed perspective

Augmented reality will prove exceptionally useful to vehicle owners who don’t otherwise know much about their car. Most drivers on the road couldn’t tell a camshaft from a crankshaft, and thumbing through an encyclopedia-sized driver’s manual isn’t going to change that. AR will give uninformed drivers the ability to examine their car’s vitals through the eyes of a professional. BMW is already developing a pair of AR glasses that will allow mechanics to instantaneously gather the information they need to repair a faulty vehicle.

Augmented reality is finally coming into its own as a truly useful and implementable tool. Vehicle OEMs now find themselves with a unique opportunity to change the way their products communicate with their owners, and we look forward to the innovations yet to come.