Hollywood has definitely played up our fantasy for futuristic cars that do it all.
From Star Wars to Iron Man, the Hollywood version of automobiles in the future rely heavily on tons and tons of advanced augmented and virtual reality features such as holographic display tech. Those fantasies might not be too far fetched after all.
Many major automotive companies are looking for ways to bring augmented reality (AR) dreams into real-life vehicles.
They are reaching out to tech and startup tech companies to incorporate their innovative technology into commercial vehicles. It seems that the big hope in the industry is to create fleets of fully autonomous vehicles.
There are some major automotive players like Ford and Tesla already piloting and using autonomous vehicles; however, many of them are still not producing them in a way that is available for mass production and consumption.
While the dream of fully autonomous vehicles is still years away, companies are looking to use AR to enhance the driving experience for consumers.
One way, AR is making actual progress in vehicles is through holographic display tech in the form of heads up displays.
Early Heads-up Displays to Holographic Display Tech
Heads up displays are often depicted as extremely advanced technology and features in futuristic movies. However, the heads-up display (HUD) is not necessarily new or innovative.
Heads-up displays were first created in World War II to help fighter and bomber pilots to focus on looking at the horizon rather than being distracted from looking at maps while in the cockpit.
The technology and features that were created to help these war-time pilots we would now consider the heads-up display. These planes had not necessarily new technology incorporated, but actually used technology and adapted it to their vehicles.
The true beginnings of the heads-up display as we know it now comes from these adapted fighter planes.
Using radar technology, these specialty planes were equipped with a piece of glass right in front of the pilot that displayed the radar information used to identify targets, including an artificial horizon.
However, these displays were not commonly used during the war and were reserved for specialized night flyers.
Postwar engineers continued to improve and develop this technology for future military aircrafts as well as the commercial aircraft market. However, this development in technology also began to be adapted to automobiles as well.
Automakers after the war, many of whom were veterans themselves, began incorporating this early version of a HUD into cars. In the 1960s, General Motors were among the first to develop sketches and drafts of a vehicle with a HUD.
However, the actual implementation of a functioning HUD in a commercial car would not come until the 1980s.
General Motor’s Breakthrough in 1988
General Motors’ Fifty 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Convertibles featured a heads-up display that projected a digital speedometer and turn-signal indicators on the windshield for the driver.
This advancement from GM was made possible through their acquisition of Hughes Aircraft in 1985, which allowed them access to technology that aircrafts were using and adapted them to their commercial vehicles.
Today’s Heads Up Displays
Today, heads-up displays are commonplace among luxury vehicles and have come a long way from its original aircraft usage.
Many vehicles that have a head-up display can project important driving information like its predecessors such as a speedometer and turn-signal indicators.
However, many advancements to the display features have been created such as GPS-guided turn-by-turn directions, blindspot indicators, and even what song is currently playing.
While current HUDs have much more information available and advancements, they still have limitations.
For one, they can only display a two-dimensional image layered over the driver’s view on the windshield. Some HUDs might allow you to adjust the placement of the display pane, but, visually, there is not much advancement to the display, that might soon change.
The next step in HUDs is holographic display tech.
What is holographic display tech?
But, what exactly is holographic display tech?
Essentially it uses augmented reality to overlay an interactive image in front of the driver and on the windshield. These advanced versions of heads-up displays would project more than just a speedometer and would encompass the entire windshield.
It would display much more advanced imagery and information for the driver such as mapping and navigation, hazard warnings, and more.
Holographic images can help to create a more realistic look to the images displayed and can provide more information that can help drivers.
The goal for all of these tech companies is to create HUDs that go beyond just displaying flat images in front of the driver but creating depth in the projections. Depth would allow for the overlaid images to appear as if they are floating in the real world.
Currently, HUDs only display a flat image. With holographic display tech, heads-up displays will be able to follow the exact view in front of the driver and graphics will actually curve with the actual curve of streets and will appear as if the images are part of the actual view of the driver not just laid over the windshield.
They would enhance the driver’s view and driving experience to make it safer and more enjoyable, not merely display dashboard information.
Today, consumers are looking to fulfill their car fantasies that they’ve seen in films. Many major carmakers are betting that Holographic display tech will bring those fantasies to real-life. Major automakers are making huge investments in tech companies to bring this technology to their commercial cars.
Companies Investing in AR vehicle features
Envisics is just one of those tech companies that are getting million dollar investments from automakers to create holographic display tech that can bring advanced technology to the everyday driver.
Hoping to be pioneers in HUDs, Envisics has been working with several major automakers such as Hyundai, General Motors, and Jaguar to bring holographic display tech to the masses.
Envisics is currently working with higher end vehicles on the market to integrate this technology. Their initial work with Jaguar Land Rover is predicted to be available by 2023.
They are also in the works with Hyudai to incorporate such technology to work with autonomous vehicles that are aimed for release in 2025.
With such major investors and the demand for more augmented reality integration, Envisics has seen their valuation boost to over $250 million.
Along with Evisics, other tech companies are getting into the market and collaborating with major automakers to try and be the first to incorporate more advanced HUDs to commercial vehicles.
WayRay and Falcon AR are also working to create more advanced HUDs with holographic display tech.
WayRay hopes to take it even further and allow for an entire windshield display that can be split for driver and passenger screens. The company is also playing with the idea of allowing advertising opportunities onto their displays much like social media dashboards on smartphones.
The future of the automotive industry is clearly relying on augmented reality technology to help boost competition and increase sales.
Holographic display tech could be in consumer’s grasp soon and is a way to test the waters for major automakers when it comes to integrating augmented reality into vehicles designed for mass production.
But, there are also many other ways AR is being utilized in the industry today and potential for its future usage in the automotive industry.
Future of AR in the Automotive industry
Augmented reality might not necessarily be synonymous with the automotive industry; however, the two industries have found a natural and mutually beneficial relationship.
The automotive industry is already using AR in many aspects. From car design to sales, augmented reality has found a lasting role in the industry.
Many automakers utilize augmented reality in their design process to allow car designers to create and innovate easily and quickly.
AR has become especially useful when it comes to the selling of commercial vehicles. Many dealerships have incorporated the technology to their online selling platforms.
Using virtual showrooms, dealerships can incorporate augmented reality into their online buying experience. Potential buyers can browse and view available vehicles. However, this is far from just a normal online buying experience.
Virtual reality companies like RelayCars are creating virtual showrooms that are creating a much more immersive and engaging online shopping experience for consumers. Virtual showrooms can allow buyers to view the inside of a vehicle as if they are actually inside the car. This gives buyers a chance to become familiar with a car before even stepping into the dealership.
Automakers know that in order to increase sales and meet consumer demand they must innovate and move forward.
Using AR and virtual reality, they can bring to life the car fantasies of Hollywood that consumers long for. They are already embracing ways to use advanced technologies to make our vehicle experience more interactive and immersive than ever before.
From Envisic’s holographic display tech to RelayCars’ virtual showroom, augmented reality and the auto industry are truly pushing where technology will bring our world in the future.