Augmented Reality for Driving

Automakers plan to supplement your driving experience with useful information seamlessly integrated into your field of vision

mini augmented reality googles

Technological advances make cars safer each model year—active safety features (like automatic braking, lane assist, and forward collision alters) act as a backup for drivers, seeing what we sometimes do not. But of course, new technology isn’t only concerned with safety—connected cars that are wireless and smartphone ready are common in many price ranges. And one of the coolest technological innovations now making its way to the auto industry promises to marry the best in safety with the latest in digital technology: augmented reality.

What is Augmented Reality?

If the term leaves you scratching your head (or reaching for your phone to Google), you’re not alone. Remember Virtual Reality in the ‘80s and ‘90s—those bulky goggles that enhanced video games and promised users would soon be able to “travel the world” without ever leaving their chair? Augmented Reality (AR) is the newest iteration of virtual reality. Instead of a completely virtual world, AR users are still present in reality, but that reality is supplemented—augmented—with computer-generated information to enhance the user’s experience of the world. AR users don goggles which offer real-time supplemental information (like sports scores or stats, GPS data, sounds and graphics for a whole host of different situations) about the world around the user.

Augmented Reality and Facebook

If you haven’t heard much about augmented reality, you’re sure to become familiar with it soon—Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that Facebook is working on augmented reality, though we won’t be able to experience it for a while yet. TechCrunch offers a possible use for Facebook AR: “Imagine, maybe, walking down the street and getting a heads-up display for the number of likes a business has.” As TechCrunch says, AR ideally gives a user the power to do more with the world around them and, “Facebook can use that to power a whole suite of new experiences.”

Augmented Reality and Cars

AR could change the auto industry in a big way, too. Think: a Heads Up Display that incorporates your entire field of vision, instead of just the bottom corner of the windshield. But AR can go beyond HUDs—far beyond. And some automakers are already well invested in the tech, with some impressive results.

Mini’s Augmented Reality Driving Goggles

WIRED reports that Mini, the now-BMW-owned company, began working with a wireless technology company about a year and a half ago with the aim of outfitting all of their future cars with goggles that have, “the ability to display content that aligns with and is anchored to things in the real world, as your head moves.” In essence, augmented reality driving goggles will add a “digital layer” to whatever drivers look at—things like directions (with arrow overlays right on the road, making the way crystal clear) and traveling speed.

The coolest feature of Mini’s goggles so far, as WIRED reported, are their ability to “see” through the car: “When you look at the doors, the goggles pipe in video from a camera outside the car, allowing you to effectively look through the metal. You can see how close you are to the curb, and spot that little kid in the driveway behind you.”

Though Mini’s AR goggles are still in development, WIRED reported that they work well, and the company says the technology is very close to market-ready.

AR driving goggles could allow you to see through your car to the curb outside or objects behind you.

Real World Implications

As AR technology progresses, and more automakers begin using the technology, we wonder what the safety implications will look like—will AR contribute to distracted driving, or will it actually improve driver attention by allowing users to keep their eyes on the road? The auto insurance industry and law enforcement will have to keep abreast of AR development as well. Clear guidelines for use will certainly need to be established.

Tell us in the comments—would you be psyched to try augmented reality driving goggles, like those in development for Mini?