An article (condensed free version here) in today’s Wall Street Journal describes how several automakers, including General Motors Co. and Daimler AG, are developing windshield displays that use augmented reality technology to provide real-time information to drivers. The automakers say these windshields are still several years away from being deployed, but conceptual renderings show information displays that range from extremely helpful to somewhat scary.
On the helpful side:
- alerts if a driver does not notice a road hazard, such as a car pulling in front of them
- driving directions
On the more scary side:
- information about landmarks (a photo accompanying the article show facts about the size of the Bay Bridge, for instance)
- social media posts (a sample rendering from Daimler asks, “Anyone up for party tonight?”)
- text messages
- a personal calendar
Obviously, people are already using their phones to do all of these (except for the driving alerts, which would be triggered by sensors outside the car). The carmakers say that displaying the information on the windshield will keep people from looking away from the road to check messages or get directions. The ability to get information about landmarks as you are driving by is intriguing (and reminiscent of the app that Google’s Niantic Labs developed, Field Trip). It will be interesting to watch the developments in this realm, because of the many implications.
- Will people use social media and text messaging more often in cars if the display is on their windshield instead of their phone?
- Will real-time delivery of information about the things that are near you be valuable?
- How will businesses make use of this information?
If, say, your car were almost out of gas, would a sensor in the car trigger an alert that a Shell station is at the next exit? Some Mercedes-Benz models already display a coffee cup icon if the car detects that the driver is showing an erratic eye pattern (signaling that they may be tired or distracted). Would that sensor then trigger a message that a Starbucks is available just two blocks away? Just this past weekend I used the Starbucks app on my phone to locate the nearest shop. In this particular instance I wasn’t actually driving when I looked at the app, but there is certainly business value in triggering messages based not only on a person’s location but also on other contextual clues. For a person who has been driving 5 hours on the highway, a message about a service area offering restaurant specials might be appropriate. The options for such real-time delivery of information are extensive. But automakers and marketers will need to weigh whether safety is compromised.