Autonomous vehicles (AVs) essentially convert drivers into passengers, eliminating the role were a human is required to pay attention to driving and navigation. We have seen how self-driving technology transforms cars into living rooms, dining rooms, or even offices on wheels – but as with any room in the house, there ought to be some form of entertainment available within the AV. How will entertainment technologies in autonomous vehicles adapt and evolve? Let’s consider a few examples.
Now that drivers no longer need to keep their eyes on the road, it is possible that transparent windows on cars will disappear. They could also be replaced by a set of panoramic screens surrounding all occupants in the vehicle, an ideal platform to create an AR or VR experience. In fact, Ford recently patented a retractable movie screen that covers the entire windshield, paving way for the development of screens covering the entire car.
Should panoramic screens with VR capabilities appear, gaming could become a dominant form of entertainment in AVs. In fact, a company named Holoride, working with partner Audi, have already created a series of VR games that most remarkably, are actually synced to the movement of the vehicle.
The Virtual Ride Home
In a promotional video (below) a female passenger is seen putting on a VR headset, which allows her to ride in a (virtual) roofless car and play whack-a-mole with furry rodents resembling pedestrians as the car pauses at a traffic light. The car then travels up and down mountainous roads, finally engaging in a spaceship battle with the player controlling a spaceship based on the car’s movements. The most impressive aspect of the technology showcased in the video, is that the VR experience, or game, is synced with the motion that the passenger experiences inside the vehicle.
The tailoring of an in-game experience around vehicle motion entices passengers to play games in their vehicles that would otherwise result in motion sickness. It is not difficult to imagine panoramic screens replacing VR headsets in AVs, further revolutionizing the gaming experience inside vehicles. Catch the video below to see the concept for yourself.
Talk to Me on the Road Home
Another company that’s really pushing the boundaries of the passenger experience is Nissan from Japan who have developed Invisible-to-Visible (I2V) technology. Their futuristic creation also uses VR headsets, this time to create an Augmented Reality environment with HUD-style overlays, and even humanoid virtual assistants, or avatars. The assistants that ride alongside you are there to act as a companion, offering conversation and information about your surroundings.
One of the core challenges to producing technologies like I2V is achieving enough network throughput to provide the VR headsets with a fluid graphical layer that feels realistic. Nissan and Audi are confident that 5G network infrastructure will be able to provide low latency connectivity required to give passengers a realistic and immersive VR or AR experience while traveling.
The promise of new forms of in-vehicle entertainment means that we can look forward to a future where travelling in an autonomous vehicle can be an entertaining, and perhaps informative experience. However, as with the production of Level 4 and 5 autonomous driving, the reality is that many of these technological innovations remain years, or perhaps even decades away from becoming a tangible reality for most consumers. Until then, we look forward to seeing more innovative ideas shaping a wholly new and exciting passenger experience.
Written in collaboration with Joey Cheng, Intern at VIA Technologies, Inc.