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Automakers Bet Big on Augmented Reality

Katrina Westerhof, Director, Research
October 15, 2018

Potential for Improved Safety, Information, and Entertainment as Technology Matures

Head-up display (HUD) technology, which dates back to World War II fighter planes, has evolved to become a centerpiece of the modern automobile. Automotive HUD is a market where augmented reality (AR) is likely to deliver long-term value and consumer impact. Our latest report, "Augmented Reality in Auto: The State of Innovation in 2018" (available to Lux Members only), explores the drivers, barriers, and opportunities behind automotive manufacturers' and OEMs' efforts to introduce AR into four key functions: information display, navigation, safety, and entertainment.


The first commercially available AR products were initially made for the consumer. However, consumer applications have seen little traction due to limitations in hardware capabilities, awkward and uncomfortable form factors, poor resolution and field-of-view, cost, and social stigma associated with head-worn devices. On the other hand, AR in the automotive space has seen a large uptick in development activity in the past several years, especially as AR in the vehicle eliminates the major limitations seen in head-worn consumer AR devices.

Since 2014, automotive manufacturers' development in AR has skyrocketed, with patent activity nearly tripling from 2013 to 2014. The development effort is aimed at extending the capabilities of the traditional HUD by overlaying digital information – for example, identification of traffic conditions, pedestrians, and road signs – onto the driver's exterior view and tying that input to the real world for the driver.


In this report, we outline the potential for augmented reality to improve in-car information display, navigation, safety, and entertainment. We also illustrate the driver benefits of AR HUDs for each application area, detailing AR's potential to support a safer, more comfortable, and better-informed driving experience. However, the technical, regulatory, and market adoption barriers are preventing AR from being commonplace today. Technology challenges include determining optimal sensor configurations, overcoming limited processing power in vehicles, and maintaining synchronization under vibration and shock.

Based on our research:

  • Automotive adoption of AR will come first in passenger vehicles due to a smaller form factor that requires a more modest sensor suite.
  • Automotive AR and autonomous driving will converge in market readiness because mature autonomous vehicle technology will also propel widespread AR HUD integration.
  • The prevalence of AR in the vehicle will require a universal standard that regulates where and how AR content should be displayed.


To learn more about our "Augmented Reality in Auto: The State of Innovation in 2018" report, download the Executive Summary.