05 Sep
Could augmented reality displays soon have a place in the standard car, van or truck?

Driven to distraction: Futuristic technologies can maintain driver attention

There are so many parts of the modern car, van or truck that are driven by technology. Safety systems are reliant on a complex network of sensors that are constantly relaying information to the vehicle's brain. Economy figures, and how much value you can get from each fuel card purchase, are dictated by processors and wiring within the engine.

Even the basics such as opening and closing the doors, bonnet and boot often rely on a computer-powered actuator. In short, the modern-day vehicle simply wouldn't be what it is without technology.

So, what's next?

Sixty-seven per cent of fatal crashes are directly related to driver distractions.

High-tech attention seekers

Well, the next big technological breakthrough in the automotive space could be centred on limiting the number of distractions a driver experiences behind the wheel. Satellite navigation system directions and even safety warning messages will often be displayed somewhere across the dashboard of the average vehicle.

Consequently, engaging with these involves looking away from the road. Doing so for even a short amount of time can be incredibly detrimental. In fact, figures collated by the New Zealand government-backed 'Reduce the Risk' road survey of the Waikato region showed that 67 per cent of fatal crashes are directly related to driver distractions.

A safety heads up

Naturally, any technology aimed at reducing that figure will prove invaluable. That's where high-tech augmented reality head-up displays (HUD) come in. In fact, research from Frost & Sullivan suggested that the popularity of such systems is set to hugely increase over the coming years, with more automotive manufacturers pushing the boundaries of the technology.

"The need to reduce driver distraction by prioritising the information projected [onto the windscreen] will fuel research and development in the HUD market," explained Frost & Sullivan research analyst Ramnath Eswaravadivoo.

One company that's already pushing the boundaries of the technology is tyre and brakes specialists Continental. Its HUD system aims to put all of the applicable information in the driver's line of sight, while also doing so in a visually appealing way, thanks to its use of augmented reality.

Continental found that if a driver takes their eyes of the road for little over a second (the time it takes to read a conventional instrument cluster) at 120 kilometres per hour, they will have travelled 33 metres.

If a sudden obstacle appears in the road, there simply isn't breathing room to react. The work of Continental, and the rest of the automotive sector, could prove invaluable if HUD's take off. After all, if driver distractions can be kept down to minimum thanks to innovative technology, roads across New Zealand would be that little bit safer.