Forget Automated Driving, Augmented Reality Driving is the Next Big Thing

The car of the future, we’re told, is cleaner, greener, and smarter than anything we’ve ever seen before. Part of that future, of course, is the fully-autonomous world of self-driving cars, powered by complex algorithms, advanced sensors, and state of the art microprocessors.

Continental's latest HUD display technology brings in elements of augmented reality.

Continental’s latest HUD display technology brings in elements of augmented reality.

For now, fully self-driving cars are some way off — but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make use of advanced computer technology to evolve our cars in other ways, especially if it means making cars safer for all.

Enter Continental, and an a new augmented reality prototype which it says will help reduce driver distraction but improve safety too by projecting important information directly onto the windshield.

Automotive head-up displays aren’t exactly new of course: high end cars like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class — which Continental makes HUD displays for — have been using them for several years. But what makes Continental’s Augmented Reality Head Up Display prototype different is the amount of information it can display, and the way in which it does it.

The AR-HUD system is designed to place the virtual image at a comfortable distance in front of the driver.

The AR-HUD system is designed to place the virtual image at a comfortable distance in front of the driver.

Instead of being a passive HUD system displaying GPS and speed information, the new prototype can bring in elements of the virtual world to enhance driving safety.

At the heart of the AR-HUD system is a full colour projector capable of creating an image which appears to hover in front of the car at a focal distance of 7.5 meters (24.6 feet). Capable of adapting to road and weather conditions, the prototype displays everything from driver speed and lane position to GPS route guidance and warn of future weather conditions.

Where the system gets clever however, is the ability to overlay information in the driver’s field of vision in a far greater area than existing head-up systems. Instead of being a small projected image somewhere on the windshield, this allows for automakers to integrate data from front-facing sensors, showing drivers in real time how close they really are to the car in front.

It’s this integration of radar data, camera feeds and GPS information that enables the AR-HUD to bring the real and virtual world together and opening up a whole new set of possibilities for in-car instrumentation and dash design. Perhaps one day, the AR-HUD system could be used to help improve driver visibility in poor weather conditions, allowing them to ‘see’ further using integrated sensors than they might in inclement weather with their eyes.

Using GPS data, the system would even help you anticipate road junctions and other road users' behaviour more accurately.

Using GPS data, the system would even help you anticipate road junctions and other road users’ behaviour more accurately.

Continental says the system is still in its prototype phase, but it is hopeful the augmented reality system will be ready to be used in series production vehicles as early as 2016.

It might not be a self-driving technology, but we still think it’s pretty cool — especially if it can be used to help coach drivers on safer, more economical driving practices.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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  • Michael Thwaite

    I recently experienced HUD on a Prius. After a few hours of driving I found it a bit distracting.nnI think I’d like to see my navigation instructions actually tracking the junction ahead, that’d be nice.

  • Esl1999 .

    Like all things, it will be a matter of preference. Simple and unobtrusive HUD will be more common and not the video game style. Automated cars will be far more important and life changing for the ordinary citizen than augmented driving. And that’s the fact, Jack.