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General Motors Takes a Head-up Look at Tomorrow

By KBB.com Editors on March 17, 2010 4:29 PM
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Intent on leveraging new technologies to create an even safer driving environment, General Motors Global Research and Development in Warren, Michigan, has teamed with researchers at several top U.S. universities to create the next-generation of Head-Up Display system that can present various types of critical information across the entire windshield. Developed in consort with researchers from Carnegie Mellon and the University of Southern California, among others, the new GM package brings together advanced night vision, navigation and camera-based sensor technologies to enhance both driver visibility and object-detection capabilities. According to Thomas Seder, group lab manager-GM R&D, even at this stage, "The 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."

Unlike current HUD systems that provide just a small readout "window" directly in the driver's sightline, the entire windshield in the GM system is coated with transparent phosphors that emit visible light when excited by a light beam -- in this case, from a compact ultraviolet laser -- which effectively transforms it into a large panoramic display. Seder points out that exponentially broadening the coverage area and integrating the various other input elements can alert drivers to a host of potential threats that normally would not register. "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." Equally critical, this new GM system would be able to "see" through blowing snow or sleet to give advance warning of pedestrians or other objects that may lie ahead but be out of the normal field of vision.

This trick GM Head-Up Display also can be combined with the automaker's new automated sign reading technology. Similar to the Opel Eye system that debuted on the 2009 Opel Insignia, it uses navigation system data to notify a driver of the proper exit as well as alert him/her if they exceed a posted speed limit or of impending construction or other potential road hazards. Although GM has not yet identified which specific vehicle program will be used to introduce this new full-windshield head-up system, Seder indicates that some of the supporting technologies could end achieve production status "in the near-term future."

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