By the end of this year a Russian startup plans to launch a new augmented reality-based in-car platform designed to improve driving safety and enhance the driver experience.

AR Smart Driving Tool Set to Replace GPS?

Can augmented reality find a valuable niche in the automobile market? This is what Russian startup WayRay, winner of the Seedstars World Moscow round and a contestant at the Seedstars World final event (SSW 2014) held in Geneva in early February, is betting on. The company has developed a multifunctional navigation system which projects driving and local information on to the car windscreen. The system uses 70% of the windscreen to present information to the driver in graphical form, using augmented reality, on the best route to take, and to guide him/her along the route with the help of both visual and audio instructions. WayRay founder and CEO Vitaly Ponomarev explained to l’Atelier that the driver will be able to follow the information without moving his/her head or changing the gaze, thus providing a “safer, more efficient and more pleasant driving experience.”

An interactive, community platform

The WayRay system uses graphic and optical processors, an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a compass coupled with a GPS/GLONASS receiver. The projection gives the impression that the graphic image is actually imprinted on the road surface, adapting to ambient light, whether it is day, night, rainy or sunny. The system draws information from a town’s traffic management centre and analyses the road situation in order to choose the best route. It can also provide background information on the buildings, companies and services along the way. But perhaps the most novel aspect is that “WayRay aims to create a unified ecosystem and interact with urban infrastructure,” promises Vitaly Ponomarev. When a car stops at a crossroads or a traffic light, for example, the system automatically provides details of nearby retail businesses and other useful information tailored to the driver in pop-up panels. The display can be modified according to the driver’s profile, e.g. taking account of his/her income, lifestyle and personal preferences. As the platform will also be geared to relaying advertising it could prove extremely useful for helping brands to target consumers. The system will also provide a social network, enabling drivers to communicate with one another while on the road.

WayRay helping to drive the smart city?

“The price will not be more than 17,000 roubles (around $524),” the WayRay CEO revealed. This is a reasonable price tag compared with the average price of a GPS today, which might help to ensure strong market penetration. The more general benefits of this in-car technology include helping to reduce fuel consumption and improving overall traffic flows in urban areas, thus “helping to alleviate traffic congestion in cities and so creating a better urban environment,” argues Ponomarev. WayRay can be installed in any model of car and the company is also planning to develop a version for maritime and river transport. Meanwhile the system could be of use to public services such as the police, ambulance service, fire and rescue service and the armed forces. In addition, “the WayRay Data Centre will gather statistics and analytical information which in the longer term could make a contribution to the design of city infrastructure,” suggests Vitaly Ponomarev.