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Monday, December 15, 2014

Jaguar Land Rover Tests 'Transparent' Pillars & 'Ghost Car' Navigation (Video)

As reported by The Car Connection: No question about it: modern technology has made cars much safer. Advancements like seatbelts, airbags, and electronic stability control have improved the odds that we'll survive a collision to drive another day and forced fatality rates to all-time lows.

But that technology also has a few drawbacks. For example:
  • Side airbags and stronger auto frames have fattened up the pillars supporting the roofs of our cars, obscuring drivers' views of pedestrians and other vehicles.
  • The amazing navigation technology on our dashboards still leaves many drivers slowing to a crawl and squinting to find their final destinations.
Jaguar Land Rover is testing something called "360 Virtual Urban Windscreen" that promises to fix both of those problems. Essentially, it's a souped-up heads-up display that also overlays vehicle pillars. As you can see from the demo video above, it consists of:
  • Transparent pillars: When the driver starts the car, the front two pillars become see-through thanks to cameras mounted to the outside of the vehicle and screens on the interior of the pillar. That allows the driver to see pedestrians and other vehicles approaching from the left and right. When a driver needs to look behind the vehicle -- like when she's checking her blind spot -- the middle and rear pillars become transparent. (It's not clear whether they do so solely in response to an active turn signal or due to eye-tracking technology, and if it's the latter, we don't know whether it will work when the driver looks in the rear-view mirror.)
  • Warning markers: Taking a cue from video games, Jaguar is testing warning markers that appear on the heads-up display, highlighting pedestrians, vehicles, and other obstacles.

  • "Ghost Cars": When using navigation to reach a particular destination, a fuzzy "ghost car" would be projected onto the car's heads-up display, which the driver would then follow. That could make finding Point B -- and a parking spot -- much easier.
According to Jaguar Land Rover's Dr. Wolfgang Epple, the goal of this technology is to reduce accidents and make driving -- especially driving in crowded urban areas -- safer and simpler: "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." 

Sadly, Jaguar Land Rover hasn't indicated where this "Virtual Urban Windscreen" sits in the development pipeline, much less if or when it will debut on Jaguar or Land Rover vehicles. The underlying technology is there, of course, but for now, it seems more inspirational than imminent.