Technological innovation in the auto industry has seen amazing strides in recent years, however until just recently the windshield is one component that has been particularly resistant to change. All that may be about to change however, with a new and groundbreaking technology being explored for use in modern vehicles, a technology called “augmented reality”, designed to transform your windshield from simply a piece of glass into an interactive, intelligent part of your vehicle.
Apart from their vital structural support, windshields have mostly just been used as barriers to keep road debris, wind and inclement weather from entering the vehicle. And I’m sure we all appreciate that. However, engineers, and some forward-thinking artists, have recognized all the blank space that’s available on a front windshield. Why not present vital information to the driver? The possibilities are almost limitless. Given the growing need to prevent drivers from diverting their attention from the road, this should ultimately be a public favorite.
The augmented part is an overlay of images or information that the driver will be able to see on or in the windshield. This doesn’t obstruct the view of the driver, but merely provides additional info, like a street sign might. The goal is to keep the driver’s eyes on the road. It’s a natural concern since drivers can find themselves distracted by many things (e.g. radios, phones, maps, etc.) Being able to talk and text on our mobile devices has also became a priority for the public, and car manufacturers had to respond.
Augmented reality windshields can look like something out of a sci-fi flick, but it’s not a new concept. There was a time in the 80s when Oldsmobiles were built with the speedometer projected onto the windshield. This technology of projecting information on windshields has also long been used in aircraft as well. The typical driver can think of many ways that this would be beneficial. The speedometer reading, blind spot awareness, and any other dashboard notifications can take eye away from the road.
Let’s take just the practical applications. When driving, there could be any number of traffic details unknown to a driver. The vehicle could recognize the details before the driver does. For instance, an upcoming road hazard could trigger an alert that displays right on the windshield. The driver would never have to take their eyes off the road. Drivers are also unaware many times of the behavior of other vehicles. When another car is swerving into your lane, or driving in a blind spot, a vehicle can sense these situations and notify the driver on the windshield.
What will probably be the most interesting feature of this technology is how it can enhance mobile device usage. Talking and texting while driving is cause of many accidents and deaths. People are still compelled to use these devices while they drive. The car is a place where many hours per week are spent, and being without the ability to use these devices is unacceptable to most. Augmented reality windshields make usage much more safe. Uninterrupted mobile usage through texting and talking would only be the beginning. Just about everything people use the mobile device to do while driving, like get directions, will be possible with an augmented reality windshield.
Careful planning and a pursuit of perfection are required when dealing with a part of the car as vital as the windshield, so it will be several years before dealerships are offering augmented reality windshields as a feature. There’s no definitive price range at this point, however it will almost certainly start out as a high-end luxury feature for some manufacturers.