Land Rover unveil James Bond-style transparent car


The see-through car is here! But not how you might have imagined it or read/seen in fiction. Guest writer, MAC, reports on the latest advancements in ‘transparent’ vehicles that are cool and actually practical.

If you thought that the fanciful invisible Aston Martin featured in the James Bond movie Die Another Day was fun but completely ludicrous, you may well have to think again after Jaguar Land Rover announced that the new Discovery Sport will have technology that lets you look through metal….

…..well, kind of. The British marque is set to launch technology that makes the front third of the car invisible so the driver can see straight through to the terrain right in front of the driver. The technology employs two cameras mounted on the front grille linked to a massive Heads Up Display (HUD) that projects the view onto the front windshield, giving the perception that you can actually see the terrain in front of you and thus avoid any obstacle in your way.

Dr Wolfgang Epple, Director of Research and Technology for Jaguar Land Rover said, “We are developing new technologies including the Transparent Bonnet to give drivers an augmented view of reality to help them tackle anything from the toughest off-road route to the tight confines of an urban car park.”

The idea of the HUD is not new; the likes of BMW have been utilising it for some time but what sets the new Discovery version apart is the amount of the screen that it will cover. The display will also cover more standard displays as well, including a digital compass, steering position, yaw, gradient information along with speed and gear information. The technology can also be turned on and off as suits the driver but I am thinking that most will leave it on all the time just because it is cool.

Transparent cars are in development in Japan as well where some researchers have already developed a working prototype, this time in a Toyota Prius. For those of you who think it would be cool to be able to check out the occupants of a transparent car, you may well end up being disappointed. All the systems that are currently being developed are for the occupants of the car to be able to see out and not the other way around.

Utilising a Harry Potter like “Cloak-of-Invisibility” technology, the new idea was created by Susumu Tachi and Masahiko Inami at Keio University, Japan, where they have equipped a car with an array of projectors, cameras and specialised mirrors, and Retro-Reflection materials that reflect what is outside of the car onto the surfaces inside the vehicle, giving the occupants a clear view of anything that may be hiding in blind-spots.

“Next, we built a setup specifically for a Toyota Prius that made the backseat virtually transparent, so that the driver could see everything behind the car when driving in reverse,” explained the creators. “In this application, the system had one projector and six lenses, allowing the driver to act naturally without the systems having to track the movements of the driver’s head. The result is a panoramic view that the driver can use intuitively – quite unlike the current, counterintuitive system, which sends output from a rearview camera to a display mounted on the dashboard. We are now collaborating with several automakers and automotive electronics companies in turning our concept into a commercial system.”

The technology is not yet ready for commercial release but the creators are certainly working towards the day when it could be an optional extra. Check out the video and tell me you don’t want one.

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