What if you could take a test drive of that latest car—look at its engine, hear it in motion, and even see the road from the driver’s perspective—all without stepping out of home?
With Augmented Reality (AR), this is now not just the stuff of science fiction movies. AR superimposes graphics, audio, video, and other virtual information to digitally enhance your view of the real world.
German auto-maker Volkswagen recently launched an app for its luxury brand Audi that allows consumers to experience this AR-based test drive, without actually being close to the automobile.
In the same vein, the bulky owner’s manual of the Audi A3 has been replaced with an enhanced, interactive AR app that familiarizes the user with the interior of the car, just by pointing the user’s mobile device camera at different parts.
VW has also introduced a similar app to guide automobile technicians on repair and maintenance of its limited edition hybrid diesel car XL1 to be launched in 2014.
Today, car manufacturers are looking to enhance safety and personalize and augment the driving experience by building AR technology into newer car models.
AR-based ‘Heads-up Displays’ (HUDs) are transforming automobile windscreens into large computer screens, non-intrusively displaying travel information—navigation indications, vehicle speed, weather information, live traffic data, and even collision warnings—directly in the driver’s line of vision.
Further, to make the drive more engaging, in-car AR systems highlight popular landmarks, restaurants, and shops as one drives past them. The driver’s social media feeds are also displayed in a manner that is least distracting.
To enhance safety, car makers developing AR systems also lean towards integrating gesture and voice recognition—for example, an incoming caller’s face pops up on the windscreen allowing drivers to accept or reject calls with a swipe of their hand or a voice command, without reaching for their mobile phones.
Certain augmented reality concepts will, soon, even allow drivers to “see through” vehicles in front of them by allowing vehicles to wirelessly connect with each other. This AR system, once further developed, can be especially effective in situations when a smaller car needs to overtake a larger vehicle on narrow roads.
Other working concepts of AR systems include Toyota’s enhanced car windows, which allow passengers to select and zoom into objects outside the car.
But use of AR is not limited to high-end luxury cars. In 2012, a Delhi start-up designed an AR app for Maruti Suzuki’s Alto 800 promotions—letting users sift through videos, book a test drive, and discuss the car on social media.
Although AR in the automobile industry is still nascent, its immense potential in enhancing driver safety and creating a more exciting driving experience, certainly augurs well for the future.
How long do you think it will take augmented reality to find its way into our future mid-segment family cars? Leave your comments in the section below.