A View from Kristina Grifantini

GM Develops Augmented Reality Windshield

The display outlines the road, and pinpoints obstacles, people and signs, even in bad weather.

  • March 17, 2010

A new “enhanced vision system” from General Motors could help drivers by highlighting landmarks, obstacles and road edges on the windshield in real-time. Such a system can point out to drivers potential hazards, such as a running animal, even in foggy or dark conditions, GM says.

Head-up displays (HUDs) are already used to project some information–like a car’s speed or directions–directly in front of the driver, through the windshield, or even through a side view mirror. These sorts of displays have started appearing in high-end cars, and typically work by projecting light to create an image on part of the windshield.

To turn the entire windshield into a transparent display, GM uses a special type of glass coated with red-emitting and blue-emitting phosphors–a clear synthetic material that glows when it is excited by ultraviolet light. The phosphor display, created by SuperImaging, is activated by tiny, ultraviolet lasers bouncing off mirrors bundled near the windshield. Three cameras track a driver’s head and eyes to determine where she is looking.

“We definitely don’t want the virtual image that’s on the display to complete with the external world; we just want to augment it,” says Thomas Seder, the lab group manager for the Human Machine Interface group at GM.

The new display, which so far has only been tested in simulations, wouldn’t be incorporated into cars until 2018 at the earliest, says Seder. The team hopes to pair the technology with night vision and find a way to combine the work with other sensors in the car to keep costs down, he adds.

“I’d like to couple with other systems and not have it be a standalone. That will help cost reduce it dramatically,” says Seder.

See how the system, which was developed with partners from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Southern California, works in the video below.

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