Jaguar tech to stop SMIDSYs

In-car screens create ‘see-through’ metal

SOMETIMES the safety of one person can be a danger to others and never is that better illustrated than in developments in car crash protection.

Jump into a 1970s or 1980s jalopy today and, once you’ve come to terms with the awful plastics and shoddy build quality, you’ll be surprised by the airy feel most of them offer. That’s thanks to thin windscreen pillars that mean drivers can see the world around them much more clearly than in today’s solidly-made cars. The downside of those old pillars was, of course, the fact that they offered all the rigidity of a cheese string.

Basically, you wouldn’t want to crash into anything harder than a soufflé in most old cars, for fear they’ll fold up around you. And the consequences of rolling them are best not thought about.

Today’s cars, in contrast, are built with incredible strength and measured rigidity that allows them to fold up in just the right way to make sure you have the best chance of getting out of a crash without a scratch. Great, but a side effect is that there’s more metal and less glass supporting the roof. And unless you’re Superman, metal is a bit tricky to see through. So while you’re likely to be fine in a crash, the old ‘Sorry mate, didn’t see you…’ line is more likely to be true than it once was.

But Jaguar might have the answer. It’s just revealed that it’s working on a technology it calls the ‘360 Virtual Urban Windscreen’ which is basically a set of screens built into the car’s roof pillars that carry images from cameras outside the car. The effect is that the driver can see straight through the pillars.

In Jag’s own words:

Pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles would be visible all around the car – and by combining the transparent pillars with an advanced high quality Heads-Up display, the movement of other road users could be highlighted to the driver with an on-screen halo moving across the car’s virtual windscreen.

When the driver indicates to change direction, when they move their head to look over their shoulder during an overtake manoeuvre, or as the vehicle approaches a junction, the system would automatically make the left or right-hand side pillars transparent.

At the moment, the tech looks rather theoretical and there’s a load of other guff about head-up displays that can let you follow a virtual ‘ghost’ car instead of a normal sat-nav, but the central idea of the see-though pillars looks like it’s got some real potential.

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