Augmented reality technology for carsIn a bid to keep drivers’ eyes on the road and away from distracting mobile devices, automobile makers are experimenting with augmented reality displays in windshields and windows of new cars.

The Wall Street Journal reports that General Motors and Daimler AG are both working on windshield displays that could show driving directions, road hazards, and other information.

“The goal is to reduce head-down time and maybe make driving a more interactive experience,” said Tom Seder, GM’s chief technologist for human machine interface, in an interview with the WSJ. Rather than “clutter” the windshield with excessive information, the car makers want to put essential data directly in front of the driver rather than on gauges or accessory screens in the dashboard.

To enable the augmented reality display, the car would be equipped with sensors and cameras both inside and outside the car. Much like the camera on a smartphone feeds data to mobile augmented reality apps, the external camera on a car would provide the base information to which the car’s computer would add extra graphics. An internal camera would track the driver’s eyes to ensure that information is displayed where the driver is looking.

Both GM and Daimler said that augmented reality windshields were still at least five years away from availability in consumer automobiles. At first, the feature would be an option for more expensive vehicles.

The chief executive of Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America, Johann Jungwirth, told the WSJ that augmented reality windshields could also be linked to drivers’ smartphones. Calendars and text messages could be displayed there, and drivers could keep their eyes on the road instead of looking down at small smartphone screens.

“There is potentially no limit to what could be displayed on the windshield,” Jungwirth said.

Kenya’s Standard Digital reports that BMW and Toyota have also demonstrated versions of the technology. Toyota’s “enhanced car windows” use passenger windows as display screens for information about objects and locations outside the vehicle.


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