Alibaba leads US$18M Series B round in WayRay, a holographic AR navigation startup

Yon Heong Tung

WayRay has partnered with Banma Technologies to develop a new AR car navigation and infotainment system

Forget conventional GPS monitors or smartphone apps, Augmented Reality (AR) navigation systems may soon become a mainstay in vehicles as more of them hook up to the internet.

Today, Swiss-based holographic AR navigation startup WayRay has announced it has raised US$18 million in a Series B round led by Alibaba Group and SAIC motors.

In addition, WayRay will work with Chinese internet car company Banma Technologies —  a joint venture between Alibaba and SAIC — to produce an AR head-up display (HUD), which will provide AR navigation, driving assistant notifications, a virtual dashboard.

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The system is expected to be built into Banma’s 2018 car models.

Alex Shi, CEO of Banma, said that the visuals AR HUDs do not distract drivers but actually enhances their safety. This is because the warnings and traffic data are all displayed on the windshield.

“Moreover, with the rise of self-driving cars and enhanced auto control mechanisms, AR systems will enhance entertainment and communication within the car,” he added.

The advantage of WayRay’s Navion

WayRay’s flagship product is called Navion. The dashcam unit measures 6.7 x 4.72 x 3.15 inches and is powered by a 1.5hHz quad-core processor. It has a field of vision of up to 25 degree and can be controlled via an app, motion gestures, or voice.

Drivers can set routes, and pertinent information such as ETA, speed limits, current speeds, distance to destination will be displayed on the windscreen. WayRay claims its holographic display is clear even under the glare of bright sunlight.

Navion can also display infotainment such as weather, eateries located nearby, parking information and advertisements when the vehicle is travelling at a slower speed.

To accomplish this, the Navion has a companion device called Element, its on-board diagnostics (OBD) dongle. It connects to its smartphone app via Bluetooth and retrieves relevant infotainment information.

Element also tracks driver’s performance on the road and stores these insights in the app.

The app also has a personal assistant feature called Autoyoga, which aims to improve drivers’ driving skills through a series of games. Developers, social media clients and location-based services can use Navion’s internal app store to push their products/branding to drivers.

 

Also Read: Didi rival UCAR announces US$1B funding, sparks speculation of another ride-hailing war

WayRay was founded in 2012. Its team of 80 employees is led by founder and CEO Vitaly Ponomarev.

Image Credit: WayRay

 

 

 

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