Many of the largest automotive and tech industry players have been investing in developments geared toward a future populated by smart and connected cars. Just recently, Chinese internet and eCommerce marketplace giant Alibaba made the lead investment in an $18 million Series B venture funding round of smart car tech developer WayRay.
Founded in 2012, WayRay develops consumer electronics as well as augmented reality technologies for the automotive industry. In its funding announcement, WayRay said that the company has used some $10 million of angel and Series A venture capital, as well as its own funds, to develop technology-transparent holographic displays.
This technology has been put to use in Navion, WayRay’s AR dashboard navigation system that overlays directions and other information onto a driver’s view of the road. The first consumer version of Navion is slated to be released sometime in 2017.
“We believe there is huge potential in the development of leading-edge technology like augmented reality and its application to various industries — like WayRay’s AR navigation system in the auto sector,” said Alibaba Group’s Senior Investment Director Ethan Xie. “The potential of augmented reality makes it an exciting and promising area.”
Alibaba officially unveiled its first connected smart car effort in the summer of 2016, though industry speculation had been circulating since last March. The RX5 SUV was built in partnership with SAIC Motor Corp., China’s largest automaker.
In addition to the funding, WayRay will partner with the joint venture between Alibaba Group and SAIC — Banma Technologies — to create an AR navigation and entertainment system for an upcoming car that Banma plans to launch in 2018.
“With the rise of self-driving cars and enhanced auto control mechanisms, AR systems will enhance entertainment and communication within the car. We believe that WayRay’s AR systems will bring us one step closer to advanced connected cars,” said Banma CEO Alex Shi.