The future with driverless cars and Augmented Reality

Driverless cars are here. Uber unveiled its first self-driving fleet in Pittsburgh last month. Also, in a robust endorsement for the technology, the US Department of Transportation has just announced new guidelines for automated vehicles.

President Obama has lent his voice to those marvelling at the opportunity automated cars present, recently writing in an editorial for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “In the seven-and-a-half years of my presidency self-driving cars have gone from sci-fi fantasy to an emerging reality with the potential to transform the way we live.”

The global rollout of driverless cars will make augmented reality integral to our everyday interactions with the world around us. Peugeot, Hyundai, Toyota and Jaguar have all been working on AR-enabled car windshields.

Brian McClendon, Uber’s vice president, is even predicting that AR will kill the street sign, saying that once autonomous vehicle usage reaches 100% and augmented reality reaches 99%, street signs will start to disappear.

Thanks to AR, drivers will have their routes, driving stats, and even information on the gradient of the road at their fingertips. There won’t be any surprises en route and the car will be able to pre-emptively react to hazards on the road. Passengers will see a wider and more detailed view of the road and get more sophisticated traffic updates. The car journey will be infinitely safer as well as more immersive.

The commercial opportunity for brands is boundless. The latest Mary Meeker Internet Trends report described autonomous vehicles as “mobile living rooms” manned by users instead of drivers. ‘Passengers’ in these cars will be engaging with an operating system first, and a vehicle second.

In a driverless car, riders have their hands free and can potentially be surrounded by screens, which opens the door to brands. The car could become the new wallet. You could be driven to the supermarket and have your car pay for your groceries. AR could also select your products so that you only have to pick them up once you arrive. As you get driven around the city, retailers en route could advertise to you and send you offers via your AR enabled windscreen, taking geo targeting to a new level.

The commute of the future will be far more productive. Instead of dealing with road rage and traffic jams, you’ll be able to work undisturbed from your car and have smooth conference calls, using AR to pull up spreadsheets, maps and dial in. Or if you’re on a long drive, why not play a fully immersive video game?

Days after Uber unveiled its driverless cars, rival cab company Grab announced it is allowing people to book self-driving vehicles in Singapore. Autonomous cars are here. Time for AR and brands to get into the driver seat.