Head-up display technology to improve road safety

Head-up display technology
Head-up display technology to improve road safety

From the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and the University College London (UCL), the head-up display technology that has been developed by researchers, is based on LiDAR (light detection and ranging).

The first LiDAR-based augmented reality head-up display technology has been developed by researchers for using it in vehicles. Tests on a prototype version of the head-up display technology suggest that it could improve road safety by ‘seeing through’ objects to alert of potential hazards without distracting the driver.

From the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and the University College London (UCL), the head-up display technology that has been developed by researchers, is based on LiDAR (light detection and ranging). The head-up display technology uses LiDAR data to create ultra-high-definition holographic representations of road objects which are beamed directly to the driver’s eyes, instead of 2D windscreen projections used in most head-up displays.

Yet the head-up display technology has not been tested in a car, but based on data collected from a busy street in central London, early tests showed that the holographic images appear in the driver’s field of view according to their actual position, creating an augmented reality. This could be particularly useful where objects such as road signs are hidden by large trees or trucks, for example, allowing the driver to ‘see through’ visual obstructions.

“Head-up displays are being incorporated into connected vehicles, and usually project information such as speed or fuel levels directly onto the windscreen in front of the driver, who must keep their eyes on the road,” said Jana Skirnewskaja, a lead author and PhD candidate from Cambridge’s Department of Engineering. “However we wanted to go a step further by representing real objects in as panoramic 3D projections”.

Skirnewskaja and her colleagues’ based their head-up display technology system on LiDAR, a remote sensing method that works by sending out a laser pulse to measure the distance between the scanner and an object. LiDAR is commonly used in agriculture, archaeology and geography, but it is also being trialled in autonomous vehicles for obstacle detection.

The researchers scanned Malet Street using LiDAR-based head-up display technology, which is a busy street on the UCL campus in central London. Co-author Phil Wilkes, a geographer who normally uses LiDAR-based head-up display technology to scan tropical forests, scanned the whole street using a technique called terrestrial laser scanning. Millions of pulses were sent out from multiple positions along Malet Street. The LiDAR data was then combined with point cloud data, building up a 3D model.

“This way, we can stitch the scans together, building a whole scene, which doesn’t only capture trees, but cars, trucks, people, signs, and everything else you would see on a typical city street,” said Wilkes. “Although the data we captured was from a stationary platform, it’s similar to the sensors that will be in the next generation of autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles”.

The researchers transformed various objects on the street into holographic projections after the 3D model of Malet Street was completed. To identify and extract the target objects, the LiDAR data, in the form of point clouds, was processed by separation algorithms. To convert the target objects into computer-generated diffraction patterns, another algorithm was used. For projecting 3D holographic objects into the driver’s field of view, these data points were implemented into the optical setup.

With the help of advanced algorithms, the optical setup is capable of projecting multiple layers of holograms. The holographic projection can appear at different sizes and is aligned with the position of the represented real object on the street. For example, a hidden street sign would appear as a holographic projection relative to its actual position behind the obstruction, acting as an alert mechanism.

The researchers have created an algorithm capable of projecting several layers of different objects and in the near future, they hope to refine their system by personalizing the layout of the head-up display technology. These layered holograms can be freely arranged in the driver’s vision space.

“This layering technique provides an augmented reality experience and alerts the driver in a natural way” said Skirnewskaja. “Every individual may have different preferences for their display options”. For instance, the driver’s vital health signs could be projected in a desired location of the head-up display technology.

“Panoramic holographic projections could be a valuable addition to existing safety measures by showing road objects in real-time. Holograms act to alert the driver but are not a distraction”.

Now, the researchers are working to miniaturize the optical components used in their holographic setup so they can fit into a car. Vehicle tests on public roads in Cambridge will be carried out, once the setup is complete.

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