How AR and smart windshields will help drivers


Among the vertical markets expected to benefit most from augmented reality (AR) technology are manufacturing, design, retail, healthcare, and transportation, research firm IDC said earlier this year in a market forecast that predicted a 10-fold increase in AR headset shipments (from 10.1 million in 2016 to nearly 100 million in 2021).

IDC identifies time and cost savings as the key drivers behind enterprise AR adoption because the technology allows employees to be more productive. It’s easy to imagine AR headsets helping product designers, repair crews, physicians, and retail salespeople by enabling them to superimpose and manipulate AR images onto the physical world.

Recent news shows that AR also can benefit employees who work on the road, where safety, efficiency, and driver fatigue are top concerns. Smart automobile dashboards have been around for a while now, but the next step is AR windshields. Two car models made by Lincoln Motor Company feature digital micro-mirror device (DMD) technology that uses mirrors and lenses to project clear, bright images onto a windshield. Think of it like Google Glass, except with a car windshield, and without the geek-creep vibe.

By displaying relevant information directly in the driver’s field of view — directions, distances, turn alerts, etc. — the DMD system allows drivers to get information without the distraction of having to glance down at dashboard data, ensuring a safer and less stressful driving experience.

That matters to fleet drivers, road sales executives, and other enterprise employees for whom being behind a wheel is a large part of their jobs. And that’s because distracted driving is a growing danger. Distracted driving deaths were up 12.5% in 2015 from 2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Fleet drivers often must cope with distractions and fatigue. Using AR to help them keep their eyes on the road should make their long journeys a bit safer. While this application of AR is relatively modest (though important), the gradual integration of AR into automobiles is expected to help prepare consumers for driverless vehicles.

Which means, assuming Ford meets its timetable of marketing driverless vehicles to delivery fleets and ride-sharing services by 2021 (and to consumers by 2025), enterprises soon will have to craft driverless fleet strategies and policies. For now, though, AR on the windshield is the next step for today’s enterprise drivers.


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