When Coke bottle glasses just won't cut it for safe driving, a futuristic windshield might do the trick.
General Motors Corp. researchers are working on a windshield that combines lasers, infrared sensors and a camera to take what's happening on the road and enhance it, so aging drivers with vision problems are able to see a little more clearly.
Though it's only in the research stage now, the technology soon will be more useful than ever. The 65 and older population in the U.S. will nearly double in about 20 years, meaning more people will be struggling to see the road like they used to.
GM's new windshield won't improve their vision, but it will make objects stand out that could otherwise go unnoticed by an aged eye.
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At the same time, the developers say the technology won't cause drivers to plow into trees. It is enhancing just a few objects that are already in a driver's view, not splashing distracting information onto the glass.
For example, during a foggy drive, a laser projects a blue line onto the windshield that follows the edge of the road. Or if infrared sensors detect a person or animal in the driver's path during a night drive, its outline is projected on the windshield to highlight its location.
It's possible because of a transparent coating on the windshield that lights up when struck by ultraviolet light.
Of course, much more goes into it than that. Sensors have to determine the position of the car in relation to the road, while other devices track the driver's head and eye movement to make sure the image on the windshield isn't skewed.
It's also been a bit of a struggle to get skeptics to see how helpful the windshield could be, GM researcher Thomas Seder said in a recent interview.
“They say, ‘That would be very frustrating or confusing, to have things on my windshield. I need to see the world,'” Seder said. “I'm enhancing the world.”
Chrysler LLC spokesman Nick Cappa said the company is also working on such windshield technologies, but he declined to provide details. Ford Motor Co. spokesman Alan Hall said that automaker didn't have any similar plans.
Some features could help to drivers of all ages. If a driver is speeding, a pink box frames an approaching speed limit sign to draw the driver's attention.
Another feature solves what Seder calls the problem of the last 50 yards in Global Positioning System navigation.
“The GPS got me on some road. What building is it? Point, there it is,” Seder said.