Car crash leads to $80m heads-up display concept, WayRay
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For Vitaly Ponomarev, a fender-bender in his Audi A6 has turned into an $80 million opportunity.
The 30-year-old - who claims to have careful driving habits - collided with the car in front of him while looking down at his gadget for directions on one of Moscow's ring roads in 2012. The mishap spurred an idea: if he could find a way to project directions onto the windshield, drivers wouldn't take their eyes off the road to find their way.
Six years later, Ponomarev's WayRay has raised $80 million from investors including Porsche Automobil Holding and Alibaba Group Holding for the idea he hatched. The backdrop on that big bet by the German sports car maker and China's internet giant is the upheaval facing the automobile industry as manufacturers race to develop autonomous technology, electric vehicles and car connectivity.
Back in 2012, heads-up displays - which project your speed and some driving tips to the windshield - already existed in some premium cars. They're more widespread now, but still have limitations. A typical box of lenses and mirrors occupies about 20 litres (5 gallons) of space and the projection area is about the size of an iPad. A number of dashboard-mounted aftermarket systems are available, but the projection is typically 4 to 5 inches.