Road watch

Satellite navigation systems could be combined with an image of the road ahead to provide drivers with more detailed route information, according to in-car electronics specialist Alpine.

The company is investigating the idea of placing a miniature camera at the front of the car to produce an actual moving image of the road ahead. This image would be displayed on an in-car screen and overlaid with a line representing the route provided by the satellite navigation system.

The company claimed the system would be easier to follow than voice guidance and intersection maps which can be distracting and difficult to understand – particularly on complicated routes.

The technology could be in production in three to five years, although Alpine is not yet working with any particular car maker on the project, said Nick Bailey, the company’s business development manager.

‘We could also take the idea further and have a head-up display across the whole windscreen, so the driver would literally follow the breadcrumbs home,’ he said.

This would allow drivers to follow the route without having to take their eyes off the road, he said.

The company is also considering using flexible electro-luminescent screens, based on technologies such as organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), to cover the driver door pillar, which can limit the driver’s side view. A camera on the outside of the pillar would be used to display an actual image of the view that would otherwise be blocked by the pillar. This would give the impression that it is not actually there.

A flexible screen could also be used to cover the entire surface of the roof, which would give the driver a greater feeling of space if used to display an image of the view from above the car.

Using flexible displays in cars, particularly to replace the glass screens used to show films on the back of front seat headrests, would make installation simpler and improve passenger safety, said Keith Price, Alpine’s engineering manager.

‘Rather than fixing a big flat piece of glass into a seat in the car it would be much easier if it was flexible. Then we wouldn’t have all the issues associated with head impact problems such as glass breaking,’ he said.

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