Alibaba Invests in Augmented Reality Navigation for Cars

By | Mar 16, 2017 04:59 AM EDT
Alibaba has raised $18 million funding for WayRay to develop AR tech in cars.

Alibaba has raised $18 million funding for WayRay to develop AR tech in cars.(Photo : Getty Images)

Alibaba has announced its latest investment to Swiss augmented reality developer WayRay.

The Chinese e-commerce giant has raised $18 million funding for WayRay. As part of the deal, Alibaba's Banma Technologies would be working with WayRay. WayRay and Banma will develop a new system including AR navigation, driving assistant notifications, and a virtual dashboard. 

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The new tech that the two companies will produce is supposed to show navigation details at up to roughly 65 feet away. The directions will be shown on the path in front of the driver and the display will change depending on the speed and angle the car is traveling at. WayRay claims its AR heads-up displays improve safety because the navigation information, warnings, and traffic data are placed right on the windscreen.

“WayRay’s making the windscreen a new medium for information. The futuristic in-car infotainment system is the first to use color holographic technology (they were previously only green). Furthermore, the system provides a smart driving assistant that collects your driving stats and patterns, offering up a gamified system of rewards,” said Mary Lapuk, head of communications at WayRay’s R&D base in Russia.

A spokeswoman for WayRay said the companies will begin to test the cars and the built-in system by end of 2017. In 2018, it is expected that Banma's latest car models will have WayRay's AR navigation and infotainment system called Navion and will be initially launched in China. 

Upon completion of the new technology between Alibaba and WayRay, the Chinese e-commerce giant could be the first to successfully build such a system into cars unless Tesla will develop it too. In February, Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly hinted that he might build a head-up display into the Model 3.

WayRay is not the first investment in virtual reality and augmented reality of Alibaba. Last month, it had built new funding in U.S. AR start-up Magic Leap, Inc. for US$793.5 million. In November 2016, it also invested in Infinity AR, a company based in Israel.

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