SciTech

Windshield helps drivers see through fog

A new windshield, developed by GM and researchers at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Southern California, uses ultraviolet lasers to “see” roads and street signs through fog. The windshield has phosphors that can light up and display the contours of the road. (credit: Courtesy of GM) A new windshield, developed by GM and researchers at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Southern California, uses ultraviolet lasers to “see” roads and street signs through fog. The windshield has phosphors that can light up and display the contours of the road. (credit: Courtesy of GM) Besides scanning road outlines, the windshield can read certain signs, such as posted speed limits, and alert drivers when they are traveling too fast. (credit: Courtesy of GM) Besides scanning road outlines, the windshield can read certain signs, such as posted speed limits, and alert drivers when they are traveling too fast. (credit: Courtesy of GM)

Fog that tends to conceal the driveway during the early hours will no longer be a major problem for drivers after General Motors R&D announced the development of technology that turns the entire windshield into an electronic display.

Few heads-up-display (HUD) projects make it past the prototype stage, in spite of their clear benefits. General Motors is trying to change that by working in tandem with Carnegie Mellon and the University of Southern California in order to devise one of the most advanced HUD systems the automotive industry has seen.
Scientists and lab technicians at GM’s global research and development in Warren, Mich., are trying to develop a system that gathers information through a variety of built-in sensors and cameras.

According to a GM Media press release, the device can project images onto the surface of a windshield. “We’re looking to create enhanced vision systems,” said Thomas Seder, the project’s lab manager at GM R&D. The innovative technology involves utilizing compact ultraviolet lasers that take information in from the vehicle’s surroundings and process it rapidly.

“Enhanced vision systems” utilize lasers to highlight road edges, speed limit signs, and other such vital bits of information for drivers during fog-filled commutes.
Since the surface of the windshield is wide, the system is able to alert drivers of potential dangers that exist either outside the driver’s field of vision or in a blind spot. Common hazards, such as small children and motorcyclists that often go unnoticed, can more easily be seen by drivers. Needless to say, the windshield could make driving easier and safer. Night vision will be greatly enhanced, and general navigation will be made easier due in large part to the camera-based sensors that will improve visibility and object detection ability.

The windshield is layered with transparent phosphors that emit visible light when stimulated by light from the compact laser. As specified by www.autoevolution.com, the windshield acts as a large transparent display as opposed to current HUD systems that use only a small section of the windshield. The technology improves on other HUD screens that GM first launched back in 1988. The deliberate design helps focus the driver’s attention on the road ahead by displaying important information such as speed and warning messages directly in front of the driver’s line of vision. Since drivers do not need to angle their heads down to see instruments at a lower level, driving while checking for hazardous conditions is made easier.

“That’s so awesome!” said first year-CIT student Vishal Jeet when he heard about GM’s project. “This sounds like it’s straight out of one of those sci-fi movies or one of those jet fighter games. If nothing else, it makes driving more interesting.”

There are those, however, who feel like HUD systems can cause problems for the driver. “I can’t imagine how colorful images on the windshield will not be a distraction and cover the driver’s vision,” said first-year CIT student Raghav Behl. “I just can’t see how useful this actually is. If anything, it will just make drivers dependent on the system to detect all hazards,” Behl said.

Although the technology has not yet been assigned to a GM vehicle program, Seder has stated that it could end up in cars in the foreseeable future.