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No more driving distractions? Augmented reality windshields coming to Kia, Audi and more could change the way we drive

No more driving distractions? Augmented reality windshields coming to Kia, Audi and more could change the way we drive

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No more driving distractions? Augmented reality windshields coming to Kia, Audi and more could change the way we drive

Augmented reality windshields are coming to a car near youAutomakers are debuting augmented reality windshields, which allow data such as, directions to a location, to be projected onto a windshield.Staff Video, USA TODAYThe days of drivers sneaking dangerous downward glances at directions on their phones may soon come to an end.Automakers are poised to introduce technology on new cars, trucks and SUVs that projects directions onto the windshield and draws a circle around pedestrians or deer on the roadway.Depending on the vehicle, these augmented reality windshields may also display vehicle information, identify ice patches and, eventually, serve as a screen for entertainment purposes when self-driving cars become a reality.Brands poised to debut the technology include Kia, Hyundai, Cadillac and Audi.Advocates say that the windshields show how technology can be used to reduce driver distraction, keeping drivers’ eyes on the road instead of darting toward an infotainment screen or phone.Save better, spend better:  Money tips and advice delivered right to your inbox. Sign up for free hereSanta Cruz, Telluride, Taos: Why automakers are naming vehicles after American destinationsSafety watchdogs say the systems could help improve safety, but they’re keen to see the details before signing off.Many automakers already have a scaled-down version of augmented reality incorporated into their windshields in the form of what they call “heads-up display,” which typically features a small box containing information projected onto the screen.Experts say more advanced augmented reality windshields will become the norm.”It’s going to be ubiquitous,” said Gary Silberg, automotive sector lead at consultancy KPMG, who has advised automakers and suppliers on their plans for augmented reality windshields. “This is going to be a massive market. Every screen in every vehicle, every windshield will have something at some point in time.”Here are answers to key questions about the technology:What models will soon carry augmented reality windshields?The recently revealed Kia EV6 and Audi Q4 e-tron will be among the first when they arrive in 2022.Kia’s sibling brand, Hyundai, will also debut an augmented reality windshield on the  2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5.And General Motors will introduce one on the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq.All four vehicles are electric crossovers.What will it look like?The systems will vary depending on the automaker.The Kia EV6, which goes on sale in early 2022, will have an augmented reality display capable of displaying “turn-by-turn navigation with animated graphics to better illustrate to the driver the intended course direction, lane safety info, and a front vehicle indicator,” Kia spokesperson Karla Gonzalez said in an email.On the Audi Q4 e-tron’s augmented reality heads-up display, information “is displayed dynamically in a large field of view, where it appears in a virtual, floating image at a perceived distance of roughly 30 feet or more from the driver – creating an integrated and eyes-forward experience,” Audi said in a statement.At the virtual Consumer Electronics Show in January, Panasonic Automotive introduced a system that projected 3D information “into the driver’s line of sight to help reduce driver distraction and potentially increase safety on the road.”Will it make it safer to drive?The Panasonic system will deploy bright graphics overlaid on the road, helping drivers identify objects or signs. For example, it could help people spot deer they might not otherwise notice with the naked eye.Using eye-tracking technology, the system knows how high the motorist is perched to ensure the project visuals align with the driver’s line of sight. Andrew Poliak, chief technology officer of Panasonic Automotive, said the company is aiming to debut the system on 2024 model-year vehicles.”It’s meant to be tuned to what you need to know at that particular time and keep your eyes adjusted and focused on the road ahead,” Poliak said.The ability to spot potential safety threats is a very enticing element of augmented reality windshields, said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst at Guidehouse Insights.”If the sensors detect a pedestrian about to cross in front of you, it can highlight that pedestrian,” said Abuelsamid, who conducts research on automotive technology. “It might put a box or some sort of highlight around where the pedestrian is.”Keeping the driver’s eyes on the road is one of the primary focuses of safety watchdogs, who point to independent studies showing that in-vehicle infotainment can distract, putting passengers, other motorists and pedestrians at risk.Are safety watchdogs satisfied?Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said he’s waiting to see how well-augmented reality windshields actually work before making a judgment call on whether the systems help improve safety.“Like all driver assist systems, the devil is in the details,” Levine said in an email. “Some added features, for which manufacturers usually charge a premium, have been shown to be more of a distraction than an aid. If the technology works, and if it does so in a non-distracting fashion, it could keep driver’s eyes focused on the road and has the potential to increase safety.”What will it cost?Pricing is unclear. Like most technology, it’s likely to cost more when it’s first deployed and then go down in price over time.An augmented reality windshield may start as an upgrade in the thousand-dollar range but could soon fall into the hundreds and possibly eventually tumble below a hundred, Abuelsamid said.Will the government allow it?At this point, it looks like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has no problems with systems that are on the near horizon.In general, the agency has taken a hands-off approach to the development of cutting-edge vehicle technology in recent years, such as self-driving cars, by providing guidance rather than firm restrictions.NHTSA said in a 2016 guidance document that advanced heads-up display systems “have potential for presenting critical information, especially if the message has a spatial component.”That said, if automakers push the limits, they could run into a regulatory wall.How will these systems evolve?Someday, when self-driving cars advance to a point where drivers no longer need to keep their hands on the wheel, the windshield could be poised for further evolution.Silberg said consumer electronics companies like Apple could integrate touch-screen capability and entertainment options, such as movie streaming.Imagine watching the next Marvel movie on your windshield while riding in a robotaxi.”We’re at the early stages,” Silberg said. “I think it will be used in a different way than we can imagine today.”You can follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey and subscribe to our free Daily Money newsletter here for personal finance tips and business news every Monday through Friday morning.


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