If you look to the future of technology and one thing becomes clear: augmented reality (AR) will play a major role. For decades now, the digital world and physical world have been separate realms. Over the next several years, technology will work to merge these two worlds into one, bringing our digital world in connection with our physical one. This might sound like the premise for a sci-fi movie, but we can assure you it’s coming and is already being used in many smartphone apps. The next big playground for AR is the automotive industry.

While it will take a lot of time for the majority of our lives to feature AR, the cars we drive will likely start featuring more of this technology fairly soon. In case you’re a skeptic, it’s important to note that it’s already happening. Head-up displays project digital data onto the windscreen, essentially changing what we see, Ford is experimenting with AR in vehicle design, and BMW started using mixed reality technology at various points in its vehicle development stages.

AR is already here, and as time goes on it will permeate more and more of the auto industry until you won’t be able to buy a car without it. With that in mind, we decided to take a closer look at how AR will change the industry. It’s going to be a brave, new, and augmented world.

AR Car Design, Marketing, Sales, and Service

Ford holographic vehicle design

Like we mentioned above, Ford started using holographs to assist in the design process. With this AR technology, the company can take a current vehicle design and make changes to it and share those changes with other designers around the globe. This holographic AR car design will likely be the future, and the clay models that have long been the go-to design medium will fall by the wayside.

In terms of marketing and sales, customers will be able to experience cars and car features without ever actually sitting in them. This has already begun. BMW launched an app on Google Play, according to AListDaily, that allows people to check out options and features on the brand’s latest cars without actually seeing them in person. AListDaily also points to Hyundai, which rolled out an app that works as an AR user and owner’s manual. It shows people how to do things like basic maintenance tasks.

bmw augmented virtual reality

Similar systems to Hyundai’s and BMW’s will arrive in automotive dealerships, too. These systems will allow people to essentially experience the car before they get to the dealer, and it could remove a trip from the dealer from the equation altogether. Automakers know that customers generally don’t like to go into the dealership. AR will be one of the ways in which they will reduce or perhaps even eliminate the need.

Hakernoon notes that AR could also help in automotive service. With the growing complexity of all vehicles, AR could be another tool in the automotive technician’s toolbox, providing step-by-step instructions on how to perform specific maintenance tasks. Volkswagen has already begun this process with a program called Mobile Augmented Reality Technical Assistance. This system provides three-dimensional visuals that show exactly how parts are installed and their relationships to each other.

Car Features will Augment Reality

augmented reality car cabin

In addition to more industry-specific aspects of automobiles, AR will also impact consumers significantly. The windshield of your car is a perfect example of something that can use AR. Currently, this takes the form of a head-up display, but those capabilities will continue to improve over time. Soon the entire windshield will have information about what can be seen through it.

Imagine this: you’re driving down a street full of restaurants, and you can see which ones have available seating, if any reservations had been made, reviews and ratings of the businesses, and much more. Also, of course, things that pertain to driving the car will appear, too. Things like route, speed, traffic congestion, potholes, etc. This will become more advanced, too, as time goes on and as autonomous cars become more popular.

According to Venture Beat, self-driving mobility-as-a-service vehicles will dominate the world in the future. The publication notes that AR could play an important role in helping people get used to letting the car drive itself. Venture Beat posits that passengers inside driverless cars will want to know how the vehicle does what it does and this would be achieved through AR on the windshield, vehicle screens, and holographs.

Gamification of Travel and In-Car Entertainment

augmented reality gamification

In a driver-less world, we wouldn’t necessarily need to pay attention to the world around us. The windshield could be replaced with a large screen that played games or movies. However, Venture Beat suggests that AR would be used to gamify the transportation process and provide in-car entertainment.

This goes beyond watching Netflix in the car. It would use the environment around you as part of the gamification, melding the physical world with the digital one. Think of the way Pokemon Go got people to go outside. Gamifying car travel would encourage people to go out in their car in a similar way. Certain locations could become special overnight, and travel, in general, could become part of a game. Imagine a role-playing game where you’re the character actually going on a quest and your car is how you get there.

New Augmented Reality Vehicle Social Networks

waze social network

AR wouldn’t stop at games and car features, it would likely encompass social media, too. In many ways, this has already begun. Think of how the Waze app has already changed the way that many people travel. It features community-edited maps that are designed to help you find the most efficient way of traveling. Add AR to the mix and instead of using the app on your smartphone, this information would be included in your navigation system and displayed on your windshield in real time.

In addition to Waze or Waze-like social media networks, there will likely be other ones that are designed with AR technology at the forefront of the design. There will be a merging of AR and current social media networks as well as new social networks popping up to support the new technology.