Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) hopes to banish blindspots caused by chunky structural pillars with a new head-up display system.
Called the 360 Virtual Urban Windscreen, digital video technology creates what JLR calls ‘transparent roof pillars’ to get rid of blindspots forever.
Many modern cars are blighted by thick A-pillars, as engineers aim to improve rollover and crush strength - ironically often at the expense of active safety. After all, you’re less likely to have a crash in the first place if you can see what’s around you.
How does the 360 Virtual Urban Windscreen work?
This is a digital system, not a physical one like Volvo's Safety Concept Car of 2000, which used latticework, see-through A-pillars (see fifth picture in our gallery). JLR uses head-up display projectors to beam a picture of the roadscape onto windscreen pillars to make up for any obscured views.
And it’s not just the A-pillars; JLR says the aim is to turn all the pillars around the car into video screens, including the B- and C-pillars at the back.
Each one takes a live video stream from a series of cameras, beaming up footage of vehicles, pedestrians and other objects outside the car for a 360-degree panorama.
Anything deemed to be a danger can then be highlighted with a virtual ‘halo’, much as a Eurofighter jet pilot is assisted to pinpoint risks.
Sounds like it could be quite a distraction!
This is where JLR’s scheme gets clever. You’re not surrounded by live video streams which could distract you. Instead, the research project flicks on individual screens as a driver’s eyes look left, right or over the shoulder.
The car tracks a driver’s head movement and interprets indicator turn signals, before deciding which views will be most helpful.
Wolfgang Epple, JLR’s research and technology director, said: ‘We are developing this technology to improve visibility and to give the driver with the right information at the right time. If we can keep the driver’s eyes on the road ahead and present information in a non-distracting way, we can help drivers make better decisions in the most demanding and congested driving environments.’
Clever nav too: intelligent instructions on screen
It’s not just about safety; in the long run, the panoramic virtual windscreen could be linked to the web, displaying petrol prices and the nearest available parking spaces. Big data opens up all sorts of possibilities.
And JLR is developing Follow-Me Ghost Car Navigation, where sat-nav instructions are replaced by a virtual car beamed on to your screen - simply follow that guide, rather than a series of arrows and confused voice instructions to reach your chosen destination.
Make no mistake: the internet of things is inching closer to your next car. Don't expect to see these innovations on the new 2015 Jaguar XF - but we wouldn't bet against them appearing by the end of the decade.