Some of the world’s largest car makers and auto industry investors are pumping tens of millions of dollars into a United Kingdom startup with an augmented reality (AR) head-up display system for drivers, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.
GM Ventures, the venture capital subsidiary of General Motors; SAIC Capital, the investment arm of Chinese auto giant SAIC Motors; Van Tuyl Companies, a U.S.-based family office investment firm; and Hyundai Mobis have teamed up on a deal to pump $50 million into Envisics, according to WSJ.
Envisics has developed software and hardware for use in cars with semi-autonomous driving features that cue the driver in to what the car is seeing on the road ahead, WSJ reported. It does this by displaying on the windshield graphics and other information, highlighting, for example, hazards the car’s autonomous driving systems may be spotting ahead.
The deal comes at a crucial juncture for both the development of autonomous driving systems and AR technology, according to WSJ. The world’s biggest auto makers and an array of tech giants are scrambling to test and develop autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles, although with mixed success as public acceptance has significantly lagged developments in technology.
AR systems, in turn, have grabbed headlines over the years, but developers of AR technology have struggled to find practical and compelling uses.
“Enhanced in-car experience is the next automotive revolution that goes hand in hand with electrification and the development of autonomous vehicles,” said Jamieson Christmas, Envisics’ founder and CEO, in a press release.
Envisics said a Series B infusion of venture capital will help the startup scale up its operations around the world to meet demand while also pushing ahead with its next generation of augmented reality driving technology.
Meanwhile, automakers are looking to technology not only to improve the driving experience, but to also bring eCommerce activity into the driver’s seat. GM is fitting cars with smart features on their dashboards, enabling drivers to pay for everything from hotel rooms to gas with simple voice commands.