GM developing new windshield capable to outline the edges of roads

Article by Christian Andrei, on August 26, 2010

There’s good news for those whose mornings are often marred by a fog-covered roadway. There will soon be a technology that will help you. The Research & Development team at General Motors is working with different universities on such a system.

What is does is use a set of sensors and cameras to gather data. The data is then used to project the needed images on the windshield’s surface through compact ultra-violet lasers. Group lab manager of GM’s R&D Thomas Seder shared that what they are creating are enhanced vision systems.

Working in partnership with the University of Southern California and Carnegie Mellon University, among many others, Seder’s team hopes to make a windshield head-up system that fully utilizes camera-based sensor technologies, navigation systems, and even night vision.

All these are aimed at improving both the driver’s visibility and the ability to detect objects. The enhanced vision systems are considered as the 21st Century version of the head's up display technology. This is the same technology that was first marketed by GM back in 1988.

The way this system is designed, it helps the driver keep attention on the road by showing significant information like the vehicle warning messages, vehicle speed, and lane change indicator status. All of these are then fed to the field of vision of the driver and the head-up display systems.

This is the same system that is available on the GMC Acadia, Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac STS, and Chevrolet Corvette. Meanwhile, scientists and lab technicians who are part of the company’s research and development team working in its Warren, MI facility are developing the next generation of head-up systems that could transform a normal windshield into something that improves driving safety even further.

According to Seder, though a full windshield head-up system has yet to be included in any of the company’s future vehicle programs, the various technologies that support it may soon be part of its vehicles in the near future.

Helping the windshield become transparent is a compact laser that produces a light beam which then excite the transparent phosphors that coat the windshield and result in it emitting light. The difference with GM’s HUD is that it uses a larger area of the windshield unlike the present systems which only utilize a small portion.

By having to use a larger surface, the system is able to alert the driver of possible hazards that may occur like motorcycles passing by, any children playing on the road, or other situations that happen outside a driver’s field of vision.

On a foggy day, a situation that can be aggravated by either snow or even sleet, this enhanced vision system uses the head-up system and combines it with night vision to give the exact location of any obstacles on the road that could not typically be seen with the naked eye.

To improve this particular safety feature, the head-up system links with the automated sign reading technology to warn the driver if they have gone over the speed limit and if there are any constructions, or other possible issues on the road.

This is the same as the Opel Eye system that was originally launched with the 2009 Opel Insignia. The system can even utilize data from the navigation system and inform the driver if it is time to exit since it can read even the overhead traffic signs.

Press Release

GM Reimagines Head-Up Display Technology

Imagine a fog-shrouded morning when you cannot see the end of your driveway let alone the road you're about to drive. Wouldn't it be great if the sides of the road could magically appear on your windshield?

It's not magic, and it's not far away either.

General Motors R&D and several universities are working on a system that would use data gathered from an array of vehicle sensors and cameras and project images generated by compact ultra violet lasers directly onto the entire surface of the windshield,

"We're looking to create enhanced vision systems," says Thomas Seder, group lab manager-GM R&D. His team is working with Carnegie Mellon University and The University of Southern California, as well as other institutions, to create a full windshield head-up system leveraging night vision, navigation and camera-based sensor technologies to improve driver visibility and object detection ability.

"Let's say you're driving in fog, we could use the vehicle's infrared cameras to identify where the edge of the road is and the lasers could 'paint' the edge of the road onto the windshield so the driver knows where the edge of the road is," Seder said.

Enhanced vision systems are a 21st Century take on head's up display technology that GM was the first to market in 1988. Designed to help keep driver attention on the road ahead by displaying important information such as vehicle speed, lane change indicator status and vehicle warning messages directly into the driver's field of vision, head-up display systems are currently available on the GMC Acadia, Chevrolet Corvette, Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac STS.

Scientists and lab technicians at GM's global research and development in Warren, MI, are now developing next-generation head-up systems that could transform the everyday windshield into a device that can make driving even safer. While the full windshield head-up system has not yet been identified for a future GM vehicle program, Seder says some of the supporting technologies could end up in GM vehicles in the near-term future.

Coated with a series of transparent phosphors which emit visible light when excited by a light beam-in this case from a compact laser-the windshield becomes a large area transparent display, instead of current HUD systems that use only a small portion of the windshield.

The ability to use such an expansive surface enables the system to alert drivers of potential dangers that may exist outside of the normal field of vision-including children playing or motorcycles passing.

On that foggy day, maybe worsened by sleet or snow, the enhanced vision system could combine night vision with the head-up system to identify and highlight the precise location of animals roaming along the side of the road that could have avoided recognition with the naked eye.

"This design is superior to traditional head down display-based night vision systems, which require a user to read information from a traditional display, create a mental model and imagine the threat's precise location in space," Seder said

As an added safety feature, the head-up system can be combined with automated sign reading technology, similar to the Opel Eye system that debuted on the 2009 Opel Insignia, to alert the driver if they are driving over the posted speed limit or if there's impending construction or other potential problems ahead. Additionally, the system can use navigation system data to alert the driver of their desired exit by reading overhead traffic signs.

"We have done testing on a number of drivers and their performance is better relative to head-down systems that are commonly used in vehicles today," Seder said. "It's a compelling design."

Topics: gm, technology

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