USAA Adds Augmented Reality to Car Shopping App

While most of us still use science fiction films as our reference point for virtual reality (VR), we’re starting to get used to its slightly less sexy cousin, augmented reality (AR). AR is the overlay of digital technology onto real images: think of the advanced auto GPS apps that project driving directions onto the windshield, or games like Pokémon Go.

The United Services Automobile Association (USAA) is debuting a pilot app that employs augmented reality for car shoppers. The app, which employs Blippar’s “computer vision” car recognition technology coupled with augmented reality, allows members who are shopping for a vehicle to point their mobile device at any vehicle (year 2000 or newer) and instantly see information relevant to the vehicle like purchase price, estimated cost of insurance and any similar vehicles for sale in the area overlaid on the car.

“Since 1922, USAA’s goal has been to provide great service through exceptional experiences,” said Chris Cox, chief digital officer at USAA. “We welcome the opportunity to explore a variety of augmented reality use cases that are ultimately meant to make our members’ lives easier and facilitate their financial security.”

Since customers are increasingly shopping online for vehicles, an AR-based app could add digital technology to the “last mile” of shopping: physically looking at vehicles for sale on a lot or showroom floor.

“Trends show that consumers are increasingly using digital channels to complete the entire car buying process,” said Heather Pollard, vice president, USAA Auto Experience. “By testing this new augmented reality capability, we hope to transform and enhance our members’ experience by making it as easy as possible for them to access the information they want, when they want it.”

While the idea isn’t brand new, USAA appears to be the first organization to deploy a pilot of an AR vehicle app. Back in March, Capital One announced its intention to add AR capabilities to its car-shopping app, Auto Navigator. The feature, however, has yet to make its debut.

USAA says it’s about making the car shopping experience smoother for members.

“If you were going to shop for a car on any car-shopping website (CarMax, Autotrader), you would have to physically input all the information about the car yourself: new, used, what year, what make and model, what features,” said Patrick Kelly, assistant vice president of digital product development at USAA. “This takes all that data entry out of the picture. All you have to do is point it toward the car you like, we’ll take care of the lookup, and we will grab information about that car.”

The USAA pilot app will go live on Monday, October 1st.