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New Thinking on The Augmented Auto Experience

When we speak of an “augmented reality experience”, it is usually in the context of AR glasses. But AR is coming to cars too and could open up experiences never before contemplated for the automobile. For example, AR glasses can provide an augmented museum experience indoors or an augmented battlefield experience outdoors. Could the automobile provide a similar outdoor augmented experience? The answer seems to be yes.

Imagine, for example, you are driving through a national park. While conventional 2D center console or navigation displays might be able to label upcoming features like a scenic overlook, a waterfall, camping or a restaurant, this information is not overlaid on the real world. It is augmented information but maybe not an augmented reality experience.

How can it become an augmented reality experience? If a passenger has a pair of augmented reality glasses, maybe it can provide such overlaid information. A smartphone might also provide such information. But these are not solutions for the driver. To address their need, an Augmented Reality Head-up Display (AR-HUD) can overlay information on the windshield. Developers are already working on ways to provide more than driving and navigation information, with more advanced versions able to place markers and symbology at various distances from the driver. This meets the definition of a true AR experience.

But there could be more. This enhanced navigation experience could come as a full package along with audio narration, recommendations for sights to see, games, discounts on merchandise and more. Such an enhanced navigation package might even be part of the car’s trim set that includes the AR-HUD or purchased separately. The augmented experience would need to work on the driver’s AR-HUD, passenger’s portable devices, and other displays in the car. 

This concept is not as far-fetched as you might think. As the connectivity of cars increases rapidly, many players are fighting over control of this valuable real estate and thinking of new applications and use cases. Streaming entertainment content is an obvious application but what about video calls when the car is stationary? Connected cars may soon be able to pay for your gas, parking and coffee – all without having to grab your smartphone or wallet.

One of the enabling steps to support this vision is payment systems. According to a new report called “Snapshot: Europe In-Car Payment Market and Trends”, car manufacturers in Europe are forging partnerships like the new deal between Mercedes Benz Group and Visa to introduce MercedesPay. 

And advertising is bound to become part of this conversation as this has been the financial foundation that has driven the widespread adoption of many new technologies and services. Service features could be offered in subscription packages or in lower-cost ad-supported versions. 

It is still early in the thinking of how, and what to offer drivers and passengers in the connected car of the future, so feel free to voice your opinions on the services that offer value and how best to fund their development and rollout.