ApplicationAugmented RealityAutomotive & Transportation

The Future of Augmented Reality in Autonomous Driving Technology

Augmented reality is fueling the innovation of self-driving cars.


Everyone in the automotive industry is racing to advance autonomous driving technologies and deploy driverless cars. This year, we’ve seen massive strides thanks to emerging technologies such as augmented reality and artificial intelligence. At this rate, Tesla CEO Elon Musk might actually be able to create a fully autonomous car by the end of 2020.

So, how is augmented reality fueling the innovation of safer self-driving cars?

In this guide, you’ll discover three applications of augmented reality in autonomous driving technology.

AR in Improving Road Safety

Augmented reality’s capacity to integrate a virtual environment into the real world makes it ideal for testing driverless cars. It provides not only a faster approach to testing but also a more economical one.

The University of Michigan uses AR and other virtual technologies to create a safe space for testing self-driving cars in their Mcity Test Facility. It has 32 acres’ worth of fake road and infrastructure. From there, real vehicles can interact with computer-generated cars in real-time. In this simulation, researchers have set up different environments and scenarios that mirror real-world challenges. This enables them to assess the safety of driverless cars.

Mcity fake town for cars - augmented reality in automotive industry
Mcity, the fake town for cars. | Source: YouTube screenshot.

Researchers also used this AR simulation to test a patent-pending software that enables real and virtual cars to communicate. By exchanging information on the road, self-driving cars can make better decisions. Thus, they can navigate any environment safely without endangering the lives of their passengers.

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At Mcity, researchers are also conducting tests to improve the self-driving experience. Their simulations assess how drivers respond to abrupt stops and other challenges when the car is in charge of the driving. In doing so, they seek to improve the quality of the ride.

AR in Promoting Autonomous Driving Technology

Perhaps it’s because driverless cars have yet to become mainstream, but the technology still baffles a lot of people. Fully autonomous cars might not be available on the market anytime soon. However, as we edge closer to that reality, it’s important for the public to understand how the technology works.

Civil Maps has come up with a one-of-a-kind solution for this problem. They’re using augmented reality maps to show people how driverless cars navigate the real world. It shows how the car detects the road’s condition, street signs, vehicles, and traffic lights. Aside from that, these dynamic maps can help self-driving cars make better decisions on the road. Its graphics might look like a crude version of Google Street View, but it offers a glimpse into quite a complex technology.

AR in Car Navigation and Entertainment

Chinese e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba has invested $18 million in WayRay, a Switzerland-based company that creates heads-up displays. They also create immersive systems designed for eventual use in driverless cars.

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Navion is WayRay’s first holographic AR navigation system which doesn’t require eyewear or headgear. It improves road safety since it eliminates the need for drivers to glance down at gauges while on the road. Not only that, it feeds drivers with accurate information about their route and environment in real-time. This delivers graphics in full-color and with a wide-viewing angle. When fully autonomous cars come out, WayRay’s technology would be able to turn every windshield into a movie screen. This way, long, dreary road trips could be more fun and safe.

wayray augmented reality navigation

There’s a huge amount of investment in research and development of autonomous driving technologies. Still, very few products have hit the market. As of now, all we can do is wait. Needless to say, fully autonomous vehicles are going to transform our daily lives. They’re going to disrupt industries as much as or perhaps even more than augmented reality already has.

Gergana Mileva
the authorGergana Mileva
Based in Prague, CZ, Geri is a freelance journalist and writer, focusing on technology, finance, and marketing. If you have a story suggestion for Geri, you may contact her here.