Augmented Reality in Automotive Safety Features to Drive the Future

Augmented reality is jumping into the driver’s seat and positioned to dominate the auto industry. Currently, virtual reality is used to showcase vehicle features in e-showrooms throughout the internet, and the technology allows consumers to take virtual test drives of new cars.

Augmented reality safety features will be the future of the automotive industry, with new makes/models displaying smart capabilities that detect potential threats to keep drivers safer on the road…and in parking lots, too.

The concept of virtual or augmented reality is understood by many to be a world or space that is separate from reality and our world. While this definition is true as it relates to virtual showrooms (to view cars) or virtual test drives, not all VR is inherently unreal.

Safety Features that Already Integrate Augmented Reality

Augmented reality’s future in the automotive industry is becoming more prominent; in fact, AR is already in many of our cars—whether we realize it or not. Here are some of the common safety features in current automobiles that already integrate augmented reality.

Automatic Stop

Today’s new makes/models may feature automatic stop capabilities when a threat (like a person, animal or other car) is detected while the car is in reverse. This feature is a form of virtual reality. The car is programmed to automatically react to the threat of a presence. The result is fewer accidents and injuries. The car, however, and its virtual intelligence is in charge…not the human behind the wheel.

Speed Limit Sensors

Yes, all cars have the ability to track your speed; speedometers are nothing new. What is new are speed sensors that actually pick up the speed limit in every area you are driving.

Changing speed limits are not uncommon, especially as drivers pass into new cities or municipalities. Speed limit sensors will notify drivers of the speed limit in that area, and this feature ensures that, hopefully, drivers slow down to obey the changing speed regulations.

Lane Guidance

Some cars have integrated lane guidance capabilities into their safety features. This allows drivers to understand their lane navigation. This feature may be even more beneficial during night driving, when lane visibility may be more limited.

Smart Rear View Mirrors

Night driving also can be difficult because visibility through the rearview mirror may be poor. New vehicles now include ‘smart’ rearview mirrors that are programmed to access the back-up camera; this feature provides drivers with a clear view of the road (and automobiles) behind them.

Rear and Front Cameras

Accidents can happen on the road or in the parking lot (pulling in too close to a post). AR technology now can limit the potential for little (or big) fender benders and accidents nearly everywhere. Cameras located around the car are connected to sensors throughout the body of the vehicle.

When a threat is detected that could result in an accident, the car will beep or, in the case of a vehicle programmed to do so, stop completely. Screens within the dashboard also allow drivers to visualize their turning radius and see all areas of their surrounding environment, further limiting the potential for an accident.

Smart Displays

In most modern vehicles, a smart display is a standard feature. This, too, is yet another form of automotive safety AR. The display alerts drivers of their mileage, fuel levels, oil life, tire pressure and any other safety issue that could affect the car or the driving experience.

The Future of Augmented Reality Safety Features

Augmented reality is integrated into many modern vehicles, but there is much potential for growth for this technology sector. Here is a look at what the future may hold for augmented reality in the automotive industry:

Nissan’s Invisible-to-Visible Technology

Nissan addresses the future of augmented reality safety features and the new advances on the horizon for the automotive industry.So what’s next in augmented reality?

Nissan discusses invisible-to-visible technology, which is a form of AR “that merges the real world and virtual world to make information visible which the driver would not otherwise see.”
This new technology allows for drivers to see what is around the corner and “potential hazards around a building….” Drivers could see someone behind a building and anticipate that the individual may cross their path. Or perhaps there is another car or some other potential threat.

Nissan’s new tech gets even cooler and more space age, though. The augmented reality lets family and friends join a ride virtually. Yes, their avatars can appear in the car like real (or unreal) passengers. This may give a lonely driver some sense of companionship, letting them drive more relaxed and engage in conversation during the drive.

AR To Test Safety Features

Augmented reality isn’t just found in the vehicles; manufacturers also are using this technology to test safety features, too. Volvo and Varjo (a company that makes VR headsets) partnered to create the first “mixed reality headset” used to drive a car—the Varjo XR-1 headset.

This headset will be used to help engineers “to develop and evaluate active safety solutions more easily.” Safety experts then wear the headsets “…testing virtual active safety systems imposed via augmented reality on the real-life environment.”

AR to Help Technicians Make Repairs

Porsche has utilized augmented reality to help technicians make repairs. The technology called “Tech Live Look” partners smart glasses with a software platform that aids service technicians in repairs. The glasses include an LED light to shine a light on tough to see spaces and magnify areas that require finer details (like small screws). Porsche rolled out the technology in 2018.

Apple’s Augmented Reality Windshield

Automotive manufacturers aren’t the only players embracing AR. Apple is getting in on the AR action, too, and filed a patent for an augmented reality windshield. The windshield may integrate Apple’s own technology like FaceTime and iPhone capabilities.

With the prevalence of video calls during Covid, the patent paves the way for in-car video conferencing. In an article for Future Car, it was noted that the author of the patent indicated (within the patent explanation) that the windshield “…could facilitate video calls and other forms of communication while waiting to reach one’s destination.”

If the patent allows for an iPhone to connect to the windshield, this also could provide drivers with a larger map view when using the phone’s GPS features.

BMW’s Augmented Reality App

In 2017, BMW introduced its augmented reality app that lets consumers explore its cars via a phone or other device. The app let potential buyers explore all points of the car. Change the color, swap out the wheel rims, or pop open the trunk. The app was a fully immersive experience and helped car buyers check out different models from the manufacturer.

While the app itself wasn’t related to safety features, there is the potential for manufacturers to create an app that allows consumers to explore the vehicle’s safety components. As car buying becomes a more virtual experience, these apps will need to evolve to include technological components that allow consumers to explore all features—including those that ensure safety.

Self-Driving Cars

The VR-operated self-driving car is perhaps the future of the industry and the future of automotive safety. These cars will require no one to sit in the driver’s seat, will navigate autonomously and may provide the most comprehensive safety features. When the computer is in the driver’s seat, this means that cameras and sensors will be required throughout the car to minimize the risk of an accident.

The very idea, though, of not sitting in the driver’s seat and letting a computer take over the vehicle might make some feel uneasy. There is, after all, so much room for technological error. However, for these vehicles to truly take over the industry, safety must be the highest priority. For this reason, these cars of the future will likely feature safety features and driving capabilities beyond our imagination.

When we think about the driving experience, every decision is vital to safety. The driver must know how soon to signal a turn, when to safely pass, how fast to accelerate, when to slow down for traffic, etc. Then there are the intricacies of parking; understanding the turning radius and the proximity of other vehicles is vital.

A self-driving car must encompass complete technological intellect and bypass any instance of perceived human error. The reaction of the car must be immediate in every single driving situation. One wrong blip of a program could cause an accident.

Perfection, it seems, will be the only way self-driving cars will take control on the road. Eventually, the intricacies of their programming will be perfect, and the future of driving may be that only the cars navigate the roads…and humans remain in the passenger seat. The implication for our daily lives would be huge; commuting could allow us to work from the car (instead of navigating it). The driving experience could be more relaxed and leave us less stressed. Parents will no longer have to threaten to turn the car around, because screaming kids won’t be affecting attention to the road.

The future of augmented reality in the automotive industry is far-reaching. Many manufacturers have already introduced augmented reality into their practices and integrated the technology into the vehicles. AR is used to help mechanics make repairs (in the case of Porsche), and has helped Volvo test out safety features. Apple may soon integrate smart windshields that allow video conferencing while commuting. However, the real future—the impending future—of AR is the self-driving car. When this car is perfected, it will offer maximum safety for passengers…but it will also force humans to relinquish the driver’s seat. Are we ready for a road of computer-operated cars? The future may decide this for us!

Augmented Reality in Automotive