Augmented reality (AR) is increasingly drawing the attention of the automotive engineering community around the world. A study has found that the automotive AR market will grow steadily at a compound annual growth rate of almost 18 percent by 2020. So what is Augmented Reality?
Fundamentally, Augmented Reality is live view of our surroundings augmented by computer-generated imagery. Out of the many potential use-cases of AR, one of the most exciting and promising one is in the automotive infotainment applications space. The AR infotainment systems in modern vehicles, which are an advanced version of the existing HUD systems, have one primary purpose, which is to prevent drivers from looking away from the road. Most automotive manufacturers have already envisioned bringing augmented reality technology to their vehicles to offer a superior and safe driving experience.
The AR infotainment systems in cars display vehicle information such as speed, time to destination, navigation, media information and vehicle health information on the windshield, thereby eliminating the need for the driver to look away from the road. The AR infotainment systems also provide weather updates, traffic reports, visualize road conditions and provide night-driving assistance with the help of interactive maps. Additionally, the integration of GPS data and sensors provides real-time information about the surroundings, street signs as well as speed and proximity of other vehicles, an extremely useful feature in urban corridors with high-density traffic. This feature also plays a critical role in the design and development of autonomous cars, the next big leap in the automotive industry, which will fundamentally transform mobility, as we know it.
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2017, three automotive equipment makers generated a lot of buzz by displaying their AR infotainment systems for cars, which promise to significantly enhance driver, passenger as well as pedestrian safety. From painting colour-coded imagery on cars ahead that were braking, to highlighting pedestrians standing by the side of the road, the concepts proved that AR would make for an important new safety feature in the cars of tomorrow. What was also clear from the demonstrations is that projection technology is now production-ready.
With increased demand from customers for advanced infotainment systems and heightened focus on safety by regulatory authorities, a number of auto manufacturers are investing significantly in R&D of AR-based infotainment systems. While adoption of AR for the development of advanced infotainment systems is evolving at a rapid pace, the need to design sophisticated algorithms to generate precise augmented content according to various contexts has increased. The AR displays involve many sub-systems that will, among other things, capture and interpret road dimensions and geometry through intensive computing. Additionally vehicle-monitoring systems leveraging AR technology need to be integrated with multiple sensors located across the vehicles. Expertise in engineering AR infotainment systems that provide right information, at the right time, in the right context needs to be leveraged by automotive OEMs that are serious about AR.