heads-up-display-ncubAs cars have become more complex, a growing array of driver support tools have emerged to help us navigate our cars effectively.  Foremost among these are augmented windscreens that display useful information in front of us as we drive.

The latest of these has emerged via a partnership we have undertaken with Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) that will use laser holographic techniques to project a range of information onto the windscreen, including speed, direction and navigation.

The screens have moved from the lab and into the latest range of JLR vehicles and are the latest example of how driving is becoming a more immersive experience.

Immersive motoring

“We’re moving towards a fully immersive driver experience in cars, and we think holographic technology could be a big part of that, by providing important information, or even by encouraging good driver behaviour,” the researchers say.

The work has been over a decade in development and is believed to be the first to use laser holographic techniques, which provide enhanced color, brightness and contrast, all in a small, light package.

The technology still has some way to go before it’s considered mainstream however.  A study earlier this year from the University of Toronto suggested that such displays are as dangerous as using a phone whilst driving.

“Drivers need to divide their attention to deal with this added visual information,” the authors say. “Not only will drivers have to concentrate on what’s happening on the road around them as they’ve always done, they’ll also have to attend to whatever warning pops up on the windshield in front of them.”

Segway into driverless technology

The researchers believe future iterations of the technology will have increasingly predictive elements to them, alerting drivers if they exceed the speed limit for instance, or start to feel drowsy.

“The car will evolve,” they say. “I’m sure in 50 years’ time, everything in cars will be controlled by computers, but it’s being developed in different directions. The sorts of questions we’re interested in answering are around the idea of integrating critical and non-critical systems in a vehicle. When these systems are integrated, who ultimately makes the decision – the car or the driver? And in the case of disagreement, who wins?”

team of German universities are also working on similar technology.  The consortium, who go by the name of UR:BAN aim to make urban traffic safer and more efficient.

Better urban transport

The 31 partners in the consortium have focused attention on three core topics:

  1. Cognitive assistance
  2. Connected traffic systems
  3. Human factors in traffic

Machines are increasingly capable of taking (and producing) a vast amount of information, so it’s increasingly important to determine the interface by which this information is displayed.

The aim is to ensure that the head-up display, the gas pedal and the dashboard are all mutually aligned, with the aim being to ensure the drivers eyes are on the road at all times.

A big part of that is to have a predictive element to the displays, so considerable work is being undertaken to ensure the system is capable of understanding the movements of other road users, especially those prone to unpredictable actions, such as cyclists.

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