“Transparent Cockpit” Gives Drivers X-Ray Vision

FILED UNDER: Cars, Technology

Japanese electrical engineers have devised a way to put an end to blind spots in vehicles once and for all. Their “transparent cockpit” system gives a driver virtual x-ray vision, making solid pieces of a car seem invisible. The only modification required for it to work is the application of a retro-reflective coating.

Hazards such as children, dogs, pedestrians and even cyclists can be difficult to spot when they’re close to the car, plus without direct sight, it can take some skill to judge how close you are to the curb. This Retro-reflective Projection Technology (RPT) aims to give drivers a better view of objects and hazards on the road that are usually obstructed by the car’s body.

In the team’s test setup, a pair of stereo cameras are attached to the passenger side wing mirror and a headset is worn by the driver. The cameras capture video of the world immediately beyond the dashboard and fenders on the left-hand side of the car. The driver’s headset projects this video directly onto these solid sections and their retro-reflective coating bounces the video back to the driver, making the panels seem entirely transparent.

You can see the effect for yourself in their video.

This is some remarkable technology, but I think there are going to be some safety issues here if used in multiple positions around the cabin. Watching the video, the passenger side of the car no longer feels like a solid enclosure. It gives the impression that the car is the artifice, a holographic projection magically floating you down the road. It feels as if the car’s body will pass through objects rather than collide with them, which I reckon is rather dangerous. That said, it could be incredibly useful for improving overall vision in cockpits that don’t often come in close proximity to obstacles. Planes and helicopters would be good candidates.

I think this safety issue, coupled with the inconvenience of the bulky headgear makes it a technology not yet suited for mainstream automobile use. But in the future…who knows?

NewScientist and Tachilab’s Project Site (translated)

Comments (One Response):

I agree that though it manages to see the “hidden” dangers, it makes driving much more dangerous with the perception that the car itself is transparent and can go through obstacles. Plus, the headgear itself is bulky. I don’t see drivers like myself wearing that one around in the future.

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