Augmented Reality Windscreen HUD

The exponential pace of technology development is already morphing the HUD into the futuristic Windshield Speed Display heads up display (HUD). Such a display system takes heads up display technology beyond the simple display of car performance and navigation instructions to an sophisticated augmented reality (AR) overlay of the cars windscreen that has the potential to dramatically improve driving safety.

GM HUD for Cars enhances visibility in poor conditions

Benefits of Augmented Reality Heads Up Display

If asked, most people would respond that the prime distraction causing fatal accidents was using one’s mobile phone while driving. However, a recently released analysis by Erie Insurance of a nationwide fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) shows that daydreaming is overwhelmingly the number one cause of distraction with five times the recorded frequency of causing fatal car crashes than mobile phones. These statistics indicate how AR windscreen heads up display could effectively boot safety through improving drivers’ on-road situational awareness using flashes of colour and sound to warn inattentive drivers.

Technology demonstrations including ones conducted on public roads have already shown that as well as projecting data on the windscreen a heads up display can paint an augmented reality overlay across the windscreen aligned to the drivers perspective of the road ahead . This overlay can be used to highlight road traffic markings like stop sign lines and pedestrian crossings as well as highlight road safety signage. GPS navigation directions can be conveyed by painting in color the route to be taken through an intersection or lane to take to prepare for a turn ahead. Video cameras and distance measuring sensors can also be used to track pedestrians and other cars and provide warnings as on-windshield icons or colors of potential collisions. This AR windscreen display technology improves driver perception of important elements in their field of view of the road ahead which in turn boosts driving safety. It’s not too difficult to imagine that continuous analysis of the driver’s eyes line of sight (see GM video below) could be used to trigger a warning that they may be distracted. This AR technology is also ripe for integration into some of the existing driver assistance packages supplied by some car manufacturers such as Volvo’s Collision Avoidance System.

AR technology may too advanced to be believed but, consider that Google already has an autonomous vehicle driving itself around California roads. It proves the ability of sensors and software to establish a very accurate situational awareness of the traffic and road conditions surrounding a vehicle. As mentioned, technology demonstrations have shown that heads up display technology is well on the way to commercialisation. Major vehicle manufacturers such as General Motors and Mercedes Benz believe in a bright future for driver assistance technologies and are pouring research funds into these and autonomous driving technologies for future vehicles.

In the video below the sophistication of the technology is very apparent with the tracking of the driver’s eyes to maintain the proper alignment of the heads up display and the use of video feed analysis and advanced sensors like infrared and laser range finders for situational awareness. See how GM is using lasers to produce a Head Up Display overing the entire windshield.

New GM Digital Heads up Display uses lasers to augment entire windshield

Two factors making full screen car heads up display HUD a commercial possibility for automobiles are; smart sensors becoming smaller and cheaper and the availability of very powerful, system on chip (SoC) mobile processors to handle the significant number crunching required for such systems. NVIDIA is already supplying SoC mobile processors with a Visual Computing Module (VCM) to automakers such as Tesla Motors and Audi to drive their impressive multimedia displays and instrument panels.

In April NVIDIA plans to release a new product called the Jason platform which will boost the speed with which auto makers can develop and test next generation advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) like collision avoidance and pedestrian detection. It will also greatly benefit efforts to develop autonomous, self-driving cars. The Jetson development platform includes all the tools designers will need including an automotive-grade Tegra 3 mobile processor, memory, WiFi, bluetooth , GPS and more.

At present, computer vision algorithms along with GPS position and other data are being used to analyze and extract road features and obtain the accuracy required for lane guidance. In the near future, with the arrival of GPS III, the positioning accuracy available from GPS satellite signal processing will improve from about 5m to 1m. This increased accuracy should reduce the required computing resources to obtain position and velocity solutions. It should also be noted that improved accuracy attributable to terrestrial based GPS systems is also a distinct possibility for the near future.

If the HUD display technology covered in this article seems futuristic, then consider the next step of combining the seamless integration of car, safety and navigation data into the real world with ,,,,,, an AR windscreen display with gesture recognition as explored by Mercedes-Benz.

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