AR is at it again with its vision to improve our lives, but now it’s even trying to make us better drivers. Even with the mobile phone ban driving seems to be a more distracted task than ever with many of us admitting to changing music, fiddling with our Sat Nav’s and re-jidding hands free kits which all distract our eyes from the road and our hands from the wheel.
A new AR product is being developed to provide a filter for all this information via what are called ‘head-up’ displays. Admittedly, whilst behind the wheel we do need to know lots of things, what speed we’re doing, how much petrol we have left and if we’re going the right way. These ‘head-up’ displays will project this information onto the windscreen and into the drivers line of sight. All with minimal distraction from the road and removing the need to take your hands off the wheel at all. Even taking your eyes off the road to simply glance to check your speed will not be necessary with this new technology. The aim is to not give people unnecessary information when driving, but simply the right information at the right time.
The technology is really being fine-tuned. So much so that the virtual information will float around 2.5 metres in front of the dashboard, meaning that drivers will only need to make very small adjustments in their line of sight between near and far. The projection area is only the size of an A4 page, which isn’t as big as it sounds considering projections can appear up to 18 metres away. By placing warnings about the road directly in a drivers field of vision this aims to make the information simply part of the traffic.
Features include, focussing on the drivers most frequently used assistance systems such as navigation, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warnings. It will even project a string of red cats eyes into the drivers view if the vehicle drifts too close to the white line. Other warnings include beeps, bells and a buzzing steering wheel and seat, which only need a second to interpret by the driver. This technology also helps to make drivers feel safer when cruise control is on because the radar will spot the car in front and highlight it with a small crescent shape and when changing lanes, your vehicle simply acquires a new target in front. It also notifies you when you’re back in full control by changing the colour of the crescent shape. With navigation it seems to be far superior to current Sat Nav’s because instructions are placed directly on the road in front of you – like having your own personal road signs. This is instead of having them all on another screen, which forces you to compare and try to match up to what you can actually see. All of that takes time and crucially takes your eyes off the road.
This AR system will hopefully be in production by 2017 and will probably first appear in large BMW’s, Mercedes or Audi’s. Premium brands have suggested they would want to offer it across their entire range. The designers claim once you’ve tried it only then will you appreciate how inconvenient and distracting lots of display screens are and have been all these years.
The aim isn’t to make driving like playing a video game, but subtly pointing out hazards with gentle warnings and prompts all within the driver’s line of sight – and that really is the key to this whole idea.